What are the impacts of intellectual property rights on access to seeds and the right to food?


Increasing numbers of seed varieties have been developed and patented over recent years, through the use of biotechnology (e.g. genetically modified organisms) and other techniques. Scientific progress of this type can lead to potential yield increases, but can also disturb existing seed exchange systems and introduce new pressures into agricultural markets.

The extension of patents to plant varieties, involving ‘technology use agreements’ and restrictions on seed exchange and seed recycling practices, can leave farmers facing higher costs and limited choice in acquiring seeds commercially. The overall privatization of genetic resources for agriculture may therefore have implications for the right to food.

The Special Rapporteur reported to the UN General Assembly on seed policies and agrobiodiversity in October 2009.

Read Foreword co-authored by Olivier de Schutter for the book 'Plant Genetic Resources and Food Security'. (July 2011)
Read Report 'Seed policies and the right to food: enhancing agrobiodiversity and encouraging innovation'. (October 2009)
Read Background document to the report 'Seed policies and the right to food: Enhancing agrobiodiversity, encouraging innovation' (A/64/170) presented by prof. Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly (October 2009)
Read Expert Submissions to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, under the coordination of the CRID (October 2009)