Local food security

The introduction of IPRs in agriculture also needs to be examined in its broader context, i.e. the impact of IPRs in agriculture on biodiversity management. IPRs in agriculture may result in the displacement of local varieties because IPR-protected varieties generally offer higher yields than the local counterpart. This process of displacement may promote monoculture production, a homogenization of the genetic landscape, and the loss of biodiversity. This may, over time, reduce crops' resilience to pests and diseases (Swaminathan, 1997), cause a decline in the range of nutritious food available in local markets and shift research priorities away from less economic and traditional food crops in favour of high-value crops.

In fact, the protection of plant varieties contains an inherent tendency to encourage uniformity and reduce biodiversity, against which the traditional practices of farmers are an essential counterweight. The apprehension about the displacement of traditional agriculture-based products by laboratory-produced substitutes may further pose problems for poor countries that are largely dependent on the export of primary products. One can envisage that plant use restrictions or homogenization of cropping activities may contribute to a destabilization of local food economies and aggravate food shortage problems. However, this argument runs counter to seed technology developers who contend that new varieties and their associated technologies are specifically designed to enhance food security through higher yields, better disease resistance and greater drought tolerance.

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