Abstract

The year 2000 was the deadline for developing countries to bring their national laws into compliance with the trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) agreement under the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, the transition to one universal intellectual property law is not proceeding as scripted. After briefly summarizing a long tradition of debate about intellectual property, this article first analyzes what is new and different about TRIPS. It then argues that extending intellectual private property rights to plants, in particular in the form of patents, challenges scientific logic and threatens biodiversity. Southern Africa has also taken this view, and is proposing political and legal alternatives to the patenting of biodiversity. Combining principles from the Convention on Bio logical Diversity and the FAO International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, draft legislation affirms farmers' and community rights, while not denying the important role of international protocols. The proposal, calling for local and national control, is not only a model for Africa, but for other developing countries to resolve the incongruities between TRIPS and the CBD over the patenting of living organisms.

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