Intellectual property and the emergence of modern agriculture

ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship

This project explores what it means to talk about intellectual property and agriculture. In the first instance, it looks at a series of laws and practices that pre-date the emergence of modern intellectual property law around the turn of the twentieth century. This will include an examination of the free distribution of seeds by the USPTO, the adoption of one variety communities in the United States and Australia, seed storage laws enacted under French and British colonial rule in West Africa, and the emergence of seed certification laws and practices. It also looks at the origins of and reasons for the exclusion of food and food-related technologies from patent laws in many countries prior to the 1883 establishment of the Paris Convention on Industrial Property. This research will ask why these legal arrangements are often presented as falling outside the legitimate scope of intellectual property law, while also examining the extent to which these nascent intellectual property laws act as a necessary precursor for the emergence of modern intellectual property law and modern industrial agriculture.