The People, Plants, and the Law online lecture series explores the legal and lively entanglements of human and botanical worlds.

Today people engage with and relate to plants in diverse and sometimes divergent ways. Seeds—and the plants that they produce—may be receptacles of memory, sacred forms of sustenance, or sites of resistance in struggles over food sovereignty. Simultaneously, they may be repositories of gene sequences, Indigenous knowledge, bulk commodities, or key components of economic development projects and food security programs.

This lecture series explores the special role of the law in shaping these different engagements, whether in farmers’ fields, scientific laboratories, international markets, or elsewhere.

Please note that all dates and time displayed are in Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST).

CONTACT

Berris Charnley
b.charnley@uq.edu.au

Carol Ballard
carol.ballard@uq.edu.au

UPCOMING 2023

35 YEARS IN DEFENCE OF SEED FREEDOM

Vandana Shiva (Navdanya International)

7 March 2023, 2:30-3:30pm (AEST)

During the lecture I will talk about people plants and Intellectual Property Law, specially patents and breeders rights. I will share my analysis of how patents on plants and seeds are based on the assumption that seeds and plants are machines, invented by the biotech industry. I will share the ontology of seeds as autopoeitic and self-organised, evolutionary systems and how article 3 j of India’s patent laws excludes plants, animals and seeds as inventions. I will discuss the issue of Biopiracy of indigenous knowledge of biodiversity and our legal cases and victories in the case of Biopiracy of Neem, Basmati, Wheat. Finally, I will discuss strategies of reclaiming the commons of seed and knowledge.

Registration details to come.

RECONSIDERING JAPAN’S PLANT PATENT MOVEMENT: NATIONAL HISTORIES, COLONIAL LEGACIES, AND TRANSPACIFIC DYNAMICS

Kjell Ericson (Kyoto University)

4 April 2023, 2:30-3:30pm (AEST)

A movement calling for plants to be treated as patentable inventions emerged in 1970s Japan. Among the loudest proponents of reform were people who had long engaged in the breeding and propagation of fruits and flowers, in certain cases far beyond Japan's post-1945 borders. My presentation contextualizes the activities of the plant patent movement these breeders and propagators joined.

Although United States plant patent precedents loomed large in Japanese debates, the issue was not simply one of borrowing existing legal frameworks. Rather, ideas of plant patenting were enmeshed in complex histories of migration, settler colonialism, and agricultural improvement. The implementation of a non-patent based Japanese plant variety protection system split opinion within the plant patent movement and contributed to its breakup by the early 1980s. Even so, several of the movement's former members later became involved in a widely publicized dispute over the patentability of a fruit tree: a peach variety with roots in colonial-era Korea. In tracing Japan's plant patent movement alongside plants and people in motion, this presentation reconsiders issues of ownership and state power beyond nationally framed histories of plant variety protection alone.

Registration details to come.

SEEDS AS DEEP TIME TECHNOLOGIES

Courtney Fullilove (Wesleyan University)

2 May 2023, 9:00-10:00am (AEST)

This talk aims to unite diverse insights in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences by theorizing seeds as deep time technologies.  Regarding the seed as a technology allows us to understand actors and processes of improvement that constitute the material form of the seed and its demarcation according to commercial and scientific logics, including but not limited to recent species of intellectual property rights and genetic modification.  Through a discussion of natural science, deconstruction of naturalized categories of production and innovation, and critical genealogy of narratives of domestication and civilization, the cultural and temporal depth of seeds comes into focus, casting cultivation as a collaborative project with a 10,000-year history.

Registration details to come.

THE BEYOND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY MOMENT IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Graham Dutfield (University of Leeds)

7 June 2023, 4:00-5:00pm (AEST)

In 1996, a book called “Beyond Intellectual Property” was published by International Development Research Centre. Intellectually, legally, and politically shifts were taking place and interacting with each other in some quite remarkable ways. Certain individuals played a big part in this, and nobody did more than the book’s main author Darrell Posey. For Darrell, the book was a logical and hugely compelling extension both of his scientific work on the ethno-ecological practices of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon, and of his environmental activism.

Registration details to come.

PAST LECTURES

STAND AND DELIVER: BIOPIRACY, LAW, AND THE BALKANIZATION OF THE GENESCAPE

Professor Jack Kloppenburg (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Seed companies demand that purchasers of their seed pay a royalty and respect the intellectual property rights they hold on the crop varieties they claim as their inventions. Peasants, Indigenous peoples, and biodiverse nations demand that they be compensated for access to the valuable genetic resources that they now realize they have been delivering free for the use of the seed companies. As intellectual property and contract law have been extended globally to facilitate the profitability of the international seed trade, so has international law been developed to forestall biopiracy and provide “benefit sharing” in return for “access” to genetic resources. 

SUPPORTING INDIGENOUS DATA: INTRODUCING THE TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE AND BIOCULTURAL LABELS

Associate Professor Jane Anderson (New York University) and Associate Professor Maui Hudson (University of Waikato)

This lecture discusses concerns over Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Indigenous rights under the Nagoya Protocol underpinning the development and application of Traditional Knowledge and Biocultural Labels/Notices.

ARTIFICIAL BY NATURE: PLASTIC FLOWERS AS INTANGIBLE PROPERTIES

Dr Jose Bellido (University of Kent)

Dr Jose Bellido discusses how significant the controversies concerning the copyright of plastic plants were in addressing the unstable distinction between the natural and the artificial, particularly when the subsistence of copyright was at stake.

NOVELTIES, FRAUDS, AND PROTECTIONS: THE FRUIT BUSINESS IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICA

Professor Dan Kevles (Yale University)

Professor Daniel Kevles discusses the history of commercial plant nurseries and how the market sought to protect their investments in the creation or acquisition of novelties and how to prevent cheats from offering fraudulent plants under branded names.

 

BIOCULTURAL RIGHTS, INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, AND LOCAL COMMUNITIES: PROTECTING CULTURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Dr Christine Frison (Université catholique de Louvain) and Associate Professor Fabien Girard (Université Grenoble Alpes)

This lecture investigates the role of biocultural community protocols in safeguarding the biocultural rights of Indigenous and local communities. In so doing, the lecture analyses the nature and role of biocultural community protocols within the context of access to genetic resources and benefit sharing, linking this to the rise of biocultural jurisprudence and the interlinkages between cultural diversity and biological diversity conservation. 

This lecture series is a partnership between The University of Queensland, The ARC Laureate Project Harnessing Intellectual Property to Build Food Security, The ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant  Success in Nature & Agriculture, and The ARC Uniquely Australian Foods Training Centre.

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