SpicyIP:As you sow ,so you reap!

IP, Climate Crisis and Food Security.

‘We have arrived at an ‘Era of Consequences’-the take home message from Al Gores’ documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’

With Global Warming and climate crisis as the central theme of the film, it succinctly weaves in narrative and event the ensuing planetary emergency and the ominous consequences these issues portend for mankind.

Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.’

Undoubtedly the most serious implication of global warming would be its repercussion on global food security. Reports released by FAO indicate that global warming is likely to diminish food production in many countries and increase the number of hungry people…the worst impacted would be the developing countries and LDCs

In that is also witnessed is a shift in technological adavnaces in the field of food and modern biotech-from consumer driven agriculture to an agronomy driven one, methods that aid sustainable crop cultivation resistant to climatic exigencies.

Illustratively, a new breed of gene altered crops has been designed by a handful of Bio-agro companies; crops that will withstand vagaries brought about by climate change and environmental stresses.

Commendable in their R&D initiatives, they have also been nimble in seeking patent rights thus sparking of a outcry of cartelisation and monopoly of critical agro technologies that is likely to have a serious socio-economic impact.

Washington post reports that

Three companies — BASF of Germany, Syngenta of Switzerland and Monsanto of St. Louis — have filed applications to control nearly two-thirds ofthe climate-related gene families submitted to patent offices worldwide,according to the report by the Ottawa-based ETC Group, an activist organization that advocates for subsistence farmers.

Activists allege that this tantamounts to ‘patent profiteering’ and is not really intended to solve the food crisis agenda.Neither is this being viewed positively by farmers who feel that this would result in a departure from traditional crop rotation methods and hence may not add up to favorable agriculture economics. ‘Misguided philanthropy’ they allege.

In turn the companies are projecting themselves as climate ‘crusaders’ claiming that such technologies would not gain popular reach unless they go out as proprietary technology , thus justifying their scramble for IPR rights.

With growing skepticism amidst the stakeholders, experts feel that both sides are oversimplifying the issue as ramifications are likely to be more widespread and deeper than projected.

An analysis of the situation throws up three dilemmas, the reconciliation of which could possibly pave an amicable way a forward.

Key question would be that of responsibility-should we deny the benefits of such a major techno development in the face of the crisis that the ecosystem is facing. Would an effective and transparent system of communication help bridge the gap and promote progressive policy formulation.

Also would be the question of establishing legitimacy and how best all the stakeholders are involved in disseminating this technology.

As with most other issues of a similar nature, it is the distribution of benefits that is likely to determine acceptability and success of the technologies.A strategy that will diffuse the effect of a corporate grab,stabilize costs, promote upstream independent research and secure the farmers rights can induce a conducive environment for similar such scientific advances.

A PPP(private public partnership) could again provide the answers.!!!


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