Seed Sovereignty, Conservation and Patenting: The Protection of Intellectual Property Rights

MCCUNE, Letitia M. -BotanyDoc, LLC

Recognition of the importance of biodiversity for global food security and the community food sustainability movement has increased awareness of seed rights. The international treaties created to ensure the world’s access to seed biodiversity includes access to seed banks for breeding purposes.  Ethnobotanists are often required to deposit their studied plant material into government seed banks/herbariums. If the plants of Indigenous Peoples are then used for development of patented varieties are the rights of the originators of the seeds recognized?  Their rights depend upon the recognition of Indigenous Peoples as plant breeders, the use of the multilateral system of the Plant Treaty to return benefits to local communities, and the recognition of the importance of plant patent’s disclosure of origin requirements. This paper will review select international agreements and highlight how continued documentation of original use and development throughout conservation and breeding programs is paramount to ensuring their rights.