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Intellectual Property as a Governance Mechanism for Genome Editing in Agriculture and Food

Presented by Dr. Greg Graff

By their very design, both informal norms and formal legal regimes of intellectual property rights shape the ability of private parties to control their new creations or inventions, thereby governing their use in society. This paper examines how intellectual property control exercised by the inventors of genome editing technologies has been shaping the use of genome editing in agricultural research and in commercial applications in agriculture and food. This has direct implications for the advance of agricultural science. It has more nuanced implications for the scope of commercial applications that are likely to emerge. Some commercial applications may come about only due to incentives created by exclusivity in the marketplace. Other applications may be developed only if the technology is widely available at low cost. Finally, this paper discusses the possible relationship between the exercise of private control over the technology and the public’s perceptions of the technology’s safety and acceptability within the food system.


Gregory D. Graff is a professor in the department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Colorado State University. Dr. Graff teaches courses on economics of innovation, technology entrepreneurship, global food systems, and agricultural policy. His research explores the public policies and institutional settings that shape incentives and constraints for innovation–both in industry and in the public sector–and how these affect the rate and direction of technological change in the economy. As a scholar, Dr. Graff publishes widely on topics of intellectual property and technology transfer in agriculture and the life sciences, including articles journals such as Science, Nature Biotechnology, the Review of Economics and Statistics, World Development, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, the California Management Review, as well as writing reviews and chapters for numerous scholarly books.

Within the state of Colorado, Dr. Graff’s has highlighted the growth and potential of agricultural innovation within the regional economy of the Colorado Front Range, arising from analyses of the ag sector initiated under the governor’s Economic Development Blueprint. This has involved organizing a series of Agricultural Innovation Summits, hosted by CSU. Dr. Graff received his Ph.D in Agricultural and Resource Economics from University of California Berkeley (in 2002), an M.S. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Berkeley (in 1999), an M.A. in Russian and East European Studies from Ohio State University (in 1995), and a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Cornell University (in 1992).