IP in plants and synthetic biology: a historical analysis of contemporary concerns

Speaker: Dr Dominic Berry # Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, University of Edinburgh

2nd Nov 2015

15:30 - 17:00

Staff Room, 6th floor, Crystal Macmillan Building, George Square, University of Edinburgh

Plants are subject to numerous overlapping ownership claims, be it as food for people and animals or as part of a nation's biodiversity and cultural heritage. This paper considers two sets of contemporary scientists who claim intellectual ownership over plants. The first, synthetic biologists of the OpenPlant group, based between the University of Cambridge and the John Innes Centre. The second, agroecologists and plant breeders working at the Organic Research Centre, Newbury. While on the face of it these two groups of scientists could not be more different - being as they are from very different institutional and disciplinary backgrounds, and working within very different social contexts - they are nevertheless both troubled by plant intellectual property. Indeed, they are both troubled enough that they are taking the unusual step (for scientists) of innovating directly within extant intellectual property frameworks. Approaching their contemporary concerns from a historical perspective, I unpack the meaning of their efforts for plant IP today, and suggest ways in which the two cases might learn from one another. 

Speaker bio: