To achieve equitable global development, intellectual property (IP) laws and customs need to encourage innovation. Indian farmers have traditionally participated in a culture of saving seeds from year to year, and exchanging seeds with other farmers. The system of seed saving and exchange permits farmers to innovate by selecting for desirable traits, thereby periodically establishing new plant varieties. More recently, the Indian government has promoted a different system, changing the law to give enhanced IP protection to scientifically derived varieties from state-run institutions or private firms, and encouraging farmers to replace their seed stocks by regularly purchasing seeds from the marketplace.

Do intellectual property regimes based on ‘exclusive rights’ and seed replacement policies erode this culture of sharing, and consequently seed-related innovations among farmers in India?