Research page
Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy

Bringing the seed wars to the courtroom: Legal activism and the governance of plant genetic resources in Brazil and India

Project Lead: Shalini Randeria
Researchers: Karine Peschard, Diego Silva
Timeline: 2015-2019
Keywords: Legal activism, Plant genetic resources, Intellectual property rights, Brazil, India
Funding OrganisationSwiss National Science Foundation (SNF) 
PartnersCenter for Sustainable Development, Universidade de Brasília (CDS-UnB), Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities, Delhi (CSH), National Law University, Delhi (NLUD)



The project is a contribution to ongoing debates on emerging legal regimes of property rights and their contestation by civil society actors; the redrawing of the boundaries between the public and the private; dynamics of dispossession and the commons. It analyses the dynamics of legal activism around plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in Brazil and India in order to: (1) document ongoing legal challenges in Brazil and India involving access to, and ownership of, plant genetic resources; and (2) develop a critical analysis of how contemporary forms of legal activism are influencing the definitions of the public good and of the commons. It seeks to understand how and why political protest against the commercialization of some biogenetic material has been articulated in the language of law and what implications this kind of “lawfare” has in two large democracies. It addresses the impact of rapidly evolving intellectual property regimes for plant varieties on agro-biodiversity and farmers’ rights over genetic resources.