Andersen, R. (2017). ‘Stewardship’ or ‘Ownership’. How to realize farmers’ rights? In D. Hunter, L. Guarino, C. Spillane and P. Mckeown (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Agricultural Biodiversity (pp. 449-470). Routledge.
Over the last ten millennia, farmers from all cultivated regions of the world have contributed to developing the enormous diversity of crop genetic diversity that is available today. The enormous diversity of food crops available today has developed through careful selection of seeds and propagating material and exchange over short and long distances, in close interaction with nature. The stewardship approach describes the idea that agro-biodiversity as a principle belongs to the common heritage of mankind and that it should be shared for the common good as part of the public domain. As such, the stewardship approach can be said to have been the dominant rationale throughout the history of agriculture until the advent of intellectual property rights. The ownership approach evolved when interests in the commercial use of genetic resources increased along with the growing economic stakes of biotechnologies in the second half of the last century, followed by demands for intellectual property rights to protect and promote inventions.