The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)



The Use of Proprietary Biotechnology Research Inputs at Selected CGIAR Centers and Latin American NARS


Cesar A. Falconi, ISNAR





A growing number of developing countries are revising, or setting up their systems to protect intellectual property rights (IPR). As members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), they are bound to introduce international standards for the protection of IPRs. Changes in the global technology system, and the function of IPR, should be seen in relation to the increasing trend in many developing countries towards having less interventionist and more open market economies. This shift has raised increasing doubts as to whether traditional, "permissive" IPR policies are conducive to social and economic development. Major trends such as international and bilateral trade and trade agreements, international collaboration and technology transfer conditions, and increased market orientation of developing economies are driving the increasing significance of IPR in developing countries.


A large number of countries include the possibility to protect "living material" (i.e., plants, microorganisms under their patent laws. The resulting possibilities to legally protect agricultural innovation stimulated the involvement of the private sector in agricultural research. Consequently, a large number of key technologies for agricultural research are now "proprietary", instead of publicly available. This situation may create difficulties for both international agricultural research organizations, including the centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and national research agricultural organizations (NAROs) in accessing, using or protecting relevant technology.


This new context imposes new challenges for international and national research institutes such as how to deal with the legal issues and ramifications of proprietary science and the complex partnerships that have arisen. It is critical to understand the current proprietary technologies and practices employed by the various CGIAR centers and NAROs. In this respect, it would be an important step to conduct a review of the use of proprietary applications of biotechnology at selected research organizations.




The objective of the study is three-fold:


  • To provide an assessment of the extent to which proprietary applications of biotechnology (technologies and materials) are being used at the selected CGIAR centers and national agricultural research organizations in Latin America.


  • To review potential policy and legal implications for consideration by the selected institutes regarding use of the identified proprietary technologies and materials.


  • To provide a synthesis of findings and recommendations in order to stimulate further discussion of the study.


Methodology and Scope


A survey regarding the application of proprietary research inputs, and prospects for generating proprietary products from these inputs will be completed on seven CGIAR centers and NAROs among five Latin American countries (Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile, and Brazil). Most of these data have already gathered and analyzed. These countries have been developing an agricultural research biotechnology capacity for the last 10 years. The list of the most relevant proprietary technologies and materials to be analyzed is grouped into eight categories as follows: (1) transformation systems, (2) promoter genes, (3) insect-resistance genes, (4) disease-resistance genes, (5) selectable marker genes, (6) genetic markers, (7) diagnostic probes, (8) others.

The survey consists of two tables to determine which proprietary technologies or materials from the categories above are being used at the organizations. On one table, information will be asked on specific applications, the means by which intellectual-property protection is provided (patents, plant breeders’ rights, or other means), and how the center obtained permission for research (e.g., license, or material transfer agreement). On the other table, information will be requested on the research products to be derived from the technologies or materials identified, the dissemination of results from this research, and if any intellectual-property protection is expected by the research organization.

An important condition for conducting the survey is to maintain confidentiality regarding the information collected from the various institutes. Therefore, specific information collected from each CGIAR center and NARO will not be presented as such in the final report, rather a synthesis or aggregate analysis will be made.

The study will generate new information on the current status on the use of proprietary technologies in the main CGIAR centers and research institutes of the selected countries. It is expected that this data will provide to policymakers and research leaders an understanding of the need to consider the implications of using proprietary technologies.



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