Agriculture and Human Values 14 (4):313-323 (1997)

Plant variety rights legislation, now enactedin most Western countries, fosters the commodificationof plant varieties. In this paper, we look at theconceptual issues involved in understanding andjustifying this commodification, with particularemphasis on Australian legislation. The paper isdivided into three sections. In the first, we lay outa taxonomy of goods, drawing on this in the secondsection to point out that the standard justificationof the allocation of exclusionary property rights byappeal to scarcity will not do for abstract goods suchas plant varieties, since these goods are not madescarcer through consumption, and consideringalternative – economically consequentialist –justifications. In the third section, we considerthese justifications as they apply to the particularcase of the commodification of plant varieties, andthe legislation which fosters it. A definitive answerto the question of whether this legislation isadvantageous awaits further empirical information, butwe point to several intrinsically problematic aspectsof it
Keywords Alienability  Commodification  Justification  Plant variety rights (PVR)  Scarcity
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DOI 10.1023/A:1007307102903
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