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Design Principles of Successful Genetic-Resource Commons for Food and Agriculture

T. Dedeurwaerdere


Recent history shows the benefits of formal arrangements for pooling plant genetic resources on the global scale, such as through the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. New challenges such as global infectious diseases affecting food crops and animals or the impact of climate change on shifts in production practices have lead public and private research entities, farmers and industry to pool genetic resources beyond plant genetic resources only. This paper presents a comparative analysis of such global genetic-resource commons, in the fields of microbial, plant and animal genetic resources, with the aim to contribute to the understanding of the challenges faced and to analyze possible institutional solutions. The analysis in this paper shows that, under conditions of appropriate quality control, the use of standard contracts against misappropriation and an initial investment in the creation of social networks, managing use and exchange of global genetic resource as a commons can be a desirable and effective solution to provide essential knowledge assets that contribute to conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity with major benefits both in developing and industrialized countries.


Microbial genetic resources, Plant genetic resources, Animal genetic resources, Access and benefit sharing, Intellectual property.

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