William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review


A. Max Jarvie


While food security has long been a national or regional burden, the advent of international instruments governing intellectual property rights over conventionally bred plant varieties and genetically modified plants has made the management of food security a global concern. Current intellectual property regimes do not provide clear support for innovations in crop productivity or biodiversity, both of which are implicated in the long term stability of food supply. This Paper examines the intellectual property regimes governing agricultural food stocks with respect to the level of support they provide for three key research programs in the development of crop seeds and plants: genetic modification, conventional commercial breeding, and traditional breeding and seed exchange practices. In the result, current intellectual property regimes are found to provide scant encouragement for biodiversity and a questionable distribution of support across the three research programmes. By way of response, the author proposes a solution through the introduction of a utility model regime that could work in concert with both existing and proposed national intellectual property laws and international instruments, including the new Trans-Pacific Partnership. The proposed solution would make possible improvements in the balance of support across the three programs and greatly improve the potential for biodiversity by providing powerful transnational protections of short duration for plant varieties, accelerating the conventional breeding development cycle.