Postcards from International
Peter Drahos and Geoff Tansey
This chapter includes reflection on experiences with international negotiations about issues that
arise from biodiversity, food security and intellectual property (IP). It discusses the types of
leverage available to countries in negotiations as well as turning negotiating gains into real gains
and more evidence-based approaches. The experiences are crystallized as observational
postcards, rather than lessons.
The negotiations that have led to the current set of treaties, conventions and international institutions dealing with IP, biodiversity and food have a long, interacting history, as discussed in Part II of this book. To individuals involved, negotiations in different fora may appear to be unconnected and episodic activities. Yet as earlier chapter authors have discussed, positions taken by some states, such as developing countries promoting a new international economic order from the 1960s to the early 1980s, led to reactions by others, as in the promotion of IP rules into the trade regime. Competition between industrialized countries underlay pressure for expansion of IP rights (IPRs) into agriculture, with Europe creating plant breeders' rights and UPOV in response to developments in the US. IPRs were becoming an important element in the industrial model of agricultural production developed in those countries and being exported globally.
Competition between the major OECD trading powers also promoted strengthening of IPRs globally as some industries based in those countries saw the need for global IP rules for their business models to survive in the face of technological innovation and intensified competition. States themselves saw IPRs as a tool to help them gain a greater share of the benefits that flowed from the domination and control of new technologies. Supporting monopolies through the passage of national IP laws became, somewhat paradoxically, a key element in promoting national competitiveness in a globalizing economy. The nature and type of global IP rules we have today emerge not only from concerns about our food and environment but also from the competing interests of states to maintain their economic