It has been almost 10 years since broad acre commercial agricultural biotechnology entered the marketplace. At the time, there was tremendous hope about biotechnology's potential to positively impact production efficiency, environmental management and the needs of end-users. While possibly not meeting expectations, biotechnology crops have been adopted in 17 countries, are planted on 81 million hectares, have increased 20% between 2003 and 2004 and involve seed valued at over US$4 billion (James, 2004).
Seed development and marketing are significant enterprises increasingly impacted by biotechnology. These technologies often involve proprietary intellectual property (IP) that requires protection in order to proliferate. Those countries that have weak intellectual property right (IPR) environments may have reduced competitiveness as the seed complex becomes increasingly driven by research and development (R&D) models involving protected IP.
Given the size and economic impact of the agricultural biotechnology complex and its significant commercial activity, this chapter will address the likely leaders and laggards from the seed industry's shift to a protected IP model. Optimal policy should not only take into account the rights of innovators but also reflect the underlying temporal aspect of the IPR question that alters the welfare outcomes.
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