Although achieving in situ conservation is possible without changing farmers’ customary management of crops as common pool resources, an alternative approach is to negotiate a bioprospecting contract with providers of the resource that involves direct payment and royalties. This bioprospecting mechanism implies a change in the customary treatment of crop genetic resources as common pool goods and is in line with national ownership mandated by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This paper questions the value of bioprospecting for protecting traditional agricultural knowledge and argues for a common pool approach. It examines the nature of crop genetic resources and farmers’ knowledge about them, and it analyzes the nature of the ‘common heritage’ regime that was partly dismantled by the Convention on Biological Diversity. The paper reviews the implementation of access and benefit sharing schemes under the CBD and discusses programs to recognize Farmers’ Rights that have arisen since the establishment of the CBD. It concludes with recommendations for meeting the Farmers’ Rights mandate of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)