Politics and Society 32 (4):511-543 (2004)

This article analyzes “farmers’ rights” as a strategy of resistance against the perceived inequities of intellectual property rights regimes for plant varieties. As commercial models of intellectual property have made their way into agriculture, farmers’ traditional seed-saving practices have been increasingly delegitimized. In response, farmers have adopted the language of farmers’ rights to demand greater material recognition of their contributions and better measures to protect their autonomy. This campaign has mixed implications. On one hand, farmers’rights are a unique form of right that may help transform conventions of intellectual property in ways that are better suited for registering and materially encouraging alternative forms of innovation, such as those offered by farming communities. On the other hand, farmers’ rights have proved enormously difficult to enact. And by situating farmers’rights alongside easily enacted commercial breeders’rights, the campaign risks further legitimizing the inequities it is responding to.
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DOI 10.1177/0032329204269979
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