Carl E. Pray
Department of Food, Agriculture, and Resource Economics, Rutgers University.
Anwar Naseem
International Food Policy Research Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

This paper examines the role of patents in the development and use of two platform technologies for plant biotechnology—plant transformation techniques and structural genomics. We find that patents were important in inducing private firms to develop these platform technologies. Their development led to the commercialization of more genetically modified (GM) varieties more rapidly than would have been the case otherwise. We identified some examples of research and GM variety marketing that were slowed down by the patents on tools. However, our preliminary assessment of the evidence suggests that the benefits from patents on tools outweigh the costs.

Key words: Genomics, holdup, intellectual property rights, patents, platform technology.