The recent GATT agreement and the Biodiversity Convention have moved intellectual property rights to the centre of South-North relations. Decisions about intellectual property, particularly for plant life,have major implications for food security, agriculture, rural development,and the environment for every country in the South and the North. For the South, in particular, the impact of intellectual property on farmers, rural societies, and biological diversity will be profoundly important.
- Patents granted for genetically engineered cotton could profoundly influence the future of a $20 billion crop critical to many national economies inthe South.
- Farmers' organizations in Andean countries believe that patents granted for two varieties of coloured cotton do not recognize the major contribution to the new product by indigenous communities in South and Central America.
The Crucible Group met in June 1993, in Uppsala, Sweden, and in September 1993, in Bern, Switzerland, to hammer out ideas and recommendations on intellectual property. Rather than seeking consensus, The Crucible Group identified trends, concerns, and opportunities in intellectual property issues related to plant breeding and plant genetic resources.
People, Plants, and Patents examines intellectual property and the patenting of life forms as bluntly and as fairly as possible. People, Plants, and Patents helps to identify the major points and the rangeof policy alternatives in this extraordinarily important, fast-changing, and politicized field.
The Crucible Group started informally in October 1992, when a group of men and women, all of whom had taken part in the Keystone International Dialogue on Plant Genetic Resources, decided there was a need for a single document setting out the intellectual property debate. The Crucible Group continues to offer advice and monitor intellectual property trends.