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Crop genetic resources as a global commons: challenges in international law and governance


Farmers have engaged in collective systems of conservation and innovation – improving crops and sharing their reproductive materials – since the earliest plant domestications. As crops have moved around the world, and agricultural innovation and production systems have expanded, so too has the scope and coverage of pools of shared plant genetic resources that support those systems. The range of people and groups involved in their conservation and use has also increased dramatically.


The book Crop Genetic Resources as a Global Commons: Challenges in International Law and Governance investigates how the collective pooling and management of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture can be supported through laws regulating access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits arising from their use. The book analyzes tensions that are threatening to undermine the potential of access and benefit-sharing laws to support the collective pooling of plant genetic resources, and identifies opportunities to address those tensions in ways that could increase the scope, utility and sustainability of the global crop commons.


Over 40 academics and practitioners working in the field of agricultural biodiversity contributed to this title, which is the fourth title in the ‘Issues in Agricultural Biodiversity’ series co-published by Routledge and Bioversity International.


“This volume makes a strong case for governing plant genetic resources in ways that promote the evolution and conservation of agrobiodiversity, and to ensure that they are available to be used by all regions to adapt better to a changing environment. Yet, it is more than just another book about the governance of natural resources by the best experts in the field: it is also an indispensable tool to understand the future of agriculture in a world of dwindling resources and biodiversity loss,” said Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.



Photo: Farmers involved in participatory plant breeding of rice in Nepal - Credit: Bioversity International/ B. Sthapit