GUEST POST: Intellectual Property Brings Food to Your Table


By Doug Nelson

When you’re sitting down to a home-cooked meal full of fresh ingredients, intellectual property (IP) may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But it should be.

In the increasingly metropolitan world in which we live, many people do not slow down to think about how the sustenance they are about to enjoy came from the field to the grocery store to their table. Farmers both in the U.S. and around the globe constantly face new challenges to bring food, fuel, and fiber to a growing world. As the global population rises and the amount of arable land decreases, ensuring that crops produce enough food has become increasingly challenging.

Following the introduction of herbicides to farming, crop production increased dramatically around the globe. From rice in the United States to wheat in Canada to soybeans in Brazil, the use of herbicides has significantly increased the amount of food yielded from our arable land.

Yet challenges remain. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that between 20 and 40% of the world’s crop production is lost annually to weeds, pests, and diseases. Innovation is critical to providing farmers with new tools to combat these growing challenges, and developing these new tools for farmers requires an upfront investment in research, time, and money. The protection of IP remains vital to the scientists and entrepreneurs who invest decades of research and significant resources developing solutions to agricultural problems.

Protecting IP begins with a government commitment to innovation. Studies have shown that countries with stronger IP protection produce more food. Let’s look at Brazil and India, for example. Brazil has 10-year protection of regulatory data in place while India currently has none. In the past five years, Brazil has yielded over twice the amount of cotton per acre as India despite the fact that India dedicates eight to 10 times more land to cotton production. But this just scratches the surface. Around the world, countries with more robust IP rights have greater access to innovative agricultural solutions, see greater crop yields, and become more competitive globally. Indeed, IP is crucial to bringing food to your table each and every day.

I recently attended the 16th round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Singapore. During my time there, I emphasized that the protection of IP and innovation remains vital to the agriculture industry around the globe, and I sincerely hope that the negotiators take this message to heart while they consider the IP language to be included in the agreement.

From Singapore to Brazil or India to the U.S., as we sit down to a delicious meal this evening, take a moment to consider the ways in which the protection of IP brought you the food you are about to enjoy.

Doug Nelson is the Senior Advisor for Trade, Intellectual Property and Strategic Issues at CropLife America

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