Crop Advances Grow with Protection

Kelly MarshallAgribusiness, Plant Science, Research, seed

intellectual property protectionIntellectual ownership of seed technology has long been argued.  Some support the free exchange of seed and plant varieties because of the benefits to plant breeders and growers.

Others are in favor of intellectual property, which protects a company’s investments.  But every issues has pros and cons.  To determine the impact of intellectual property protection on seed development Stephen Smith and a team at Iowa State University conducted a study.  Their results?  Intellectual property protection benefits plant breeds and society.

Smith’s team studies the link in crop improvements to the economic welfare, health and nutrition of consumers.  The results showed that, in general, protection for seeds benefited everyone when using genetic innovation as the standard for success.

“Future generations will rely upon an adaptive, productive, and sustainable agriculture,” he says, “conducted in a healthy and diverse biological environment.” That diversity demands the development of more crops with improved qualities.

According to Smith, intellectual property protection is necessary for several reasons. First, it helps researchers attract funding. This funding supports risky research that would not be possible otherwise. This research can lead to better products for farmers.

Second, intellectual property protection pushes crop research and development. This innovation is vital to meet increasing global challenges. Increased demand for crops, climate change, and attacks from diseases and pests are stark realities.

Finally, Smith says, “Protection is essential to help prevent misappropriation of varieties and counterfeiting of products.” Such practices hurt the abilities of farmers to run their business. They can also lead to crop failure if seeds or crop varieties are mislabeled.

Factors considered in the study include “strength and length” of the protection and the  cost of purchasing or developing genetic stocks and new technologies.  Without intellectual property rights companies have no incentive to produce innovative plant varieties.  “Private sector funding would not occur sustainably without the opportunity to obtain some degree of exclusivity on sale and commercial returns,” Smith explains.

You can read more about his work in Crop Science.