The possible protection of indigenous cultural expressions has reemerged as a topic in international debates in recent years. This article provides a legal perspective on the topic. Existing copyright and neighboring right laws do not apply to such cultural expressions per se, since they do not fulfill the relevant criteria of protection. However, indirect protection is granted to those who record indigenous expressions onto phonograms, films, and photographs, and for those who collect or perform indigenous cultural expressions. Protection concerning authenticity is possible by way of trademarks (in particular collective marks and certification marks) and geographical indications. Particular rules about unfair competition may protect against the disclosure of confidential information. Works based on traditional cultural expressions are regularly protected by copyright. Following early (unsuccessful) attempts for international protection of traditional cultural expressions per se, new ways are currently being developed including sui generis protection regimes which integrate customary laws and practices. Any successful solution will have to be based on better mutual interest and understanding between indigenous peoples and Western users.
Silke von Lewinski
Seeds—Grown, governed, and contested, or the ontic in political anthropology
Seeds are simultaneously a meaningful part of the daily life of many people involved in agriculture and instruments for national and international policy making. This thematic section explores the sensorial connections between people and plants, the relationships of power that impact and frame them, and the reflections and contestations that they are a part of. In the midst of Western societies and among scientists and farmers, different ontologies and different perceptions of being and coevolving with others in the world coexist, as we will show by looking at human-seed relationships. Local and global legacies create powerful differences between seeds, while various forms of international governance simultaneously push seeds toward homogenization and agriculture toward industrialization while claiming to preserve diversity. Intellectual property rights over seeds and seed regulations have become powerful tools of multinational seed corporations for appropriating large parts of farmers' incomes and controlling the food chain, while it is the sensorial and emotional connections between humans and plants that provide the drive to resist them.
Geographical Indications, Rural Development, and the Environment
Fabio Parasecoli and Aya Tasaki
The article highlights relevant issues within the global debate on geographical indications, as they relate to food products. Geographical indications, a form of intellectual property designated by considering principally the place of origin of products, have become a hot topic among producers, activists, economists, and politicians worldwide. Commercial and legal issues related to them have generated complex negotiations in international organizations and national institutions, while their cultural aspects have stimulated theoretical debates about the impact of global trade on local identities. Geographical indications could become a valid tool to implement community-based, sustainable, and quality-oriented agriculture, depending on the sociopolitical environment and whether they are relevant for the producers involved, affordable in terms of administrative and management costs, and applicable on different scales of production. The article also explores the environmental impact of geographical indications and their potential in ensuring the livelihood of rural communities in emerging economies and promoting sustainable agricultural models.
GMOs—Global objects of contention
Genetically modified organisms in agriculture have become objects of contention, crystallizing some of today’s major political and social controversies. As human-made objects that are alive and have agency, they invite the anthropologist to follow their trajectories and to analyze the power relationships and political economies of meaning in which they are inscribed. Taking as a point of departure Hans Jonas’s principle of responsibility for the unknown effects of technological developments, this article questions why a culture of urgency is attached to GMOs in spite of the unpredictable consequences that may arise when they are set free into the environment. As naturally reproducing objects that have intellectual property rights attached to them they raise issues of political governance and of economic power and control. They provoke not only repertoires of contention but also silences that speak about the link between technology and policy in con- temporary societies.
Helen A. Robbins and Leigh Kuwanwisiwma
Religious practice, in all its forms, is intrinsic to the Hopi way of being. The Hopi people have performed rituals of balance and renewal continuously for thousands of years, but the collection and removal of ceremonial items have created a spiritual void. Repatriation legislation has given hope that items can come home, go back to ritual use, and, simply, by the act of their return, nurture the Hopi spirit. Paradoxically, legal and bureaucratic requirements in federal legislation such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) both constrain and subvert Hopi authority over their own repatriation efforts and the items returned. To engage in repatriation, the Hopi must participate in what have become highly ritualized processes outlined in law, as well as submit to a museum’s procedural requirements, also legitimated in law. In this way, the repatriation process ultimately reproduces and reinforces the existing power of the nation-state.
Patented seeds at dispute in Canada's courts
Patents on objects that have agency such as seeds pose new challenges for governance, raising fundamental questions of control and responsibility. In May 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada found the farmer Percy Schmeiser guilty of infringing the Monsanto patent on genetically modified canola, because he reseeded part of his canola harvest although he knew or ought to have known that it contained seeds of GM canola plants that had blown into his field. In May 2005, a group of organic farmers tried a legal procedure to get certification as a class against two biotechnology corporations Bayer CropScience and Monsanto for polluting their fields with GM canola. At stake are questions on the type of ownership that can be claimed over plants—and whether ownership can be claimed over a plant at the same time that liability for its reproduction is denied. The two court cases I discuss allow us to more closely see how genetically modified canola plants have become objects of contention among Western Canadian farmers, how they transformed the farmers’ daily work and relations between neighbors, and how they increased farmers’ dependency on agro-biotech corporations.
Globalization, Representation, and Resistance
Graeme Hayes and Martin O'Shaughnessy
It is now twelve years since French brinkmanship pushed American negotiators and the prospects of a world trade deal to the wire, securing the exclusion of cultural products and services from the 1993 GATT agreement and the maintenance of European systems of national quotas, public subsidies, and intellectual property rights in the audiovisual sector. The intervening period has not been quiet. Although the Multilateral Agreement on Investment was sunk when Lionel Jospin pulled the plug on negotiations in October 1998, the applications of new central European entrants to join the European Union and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have been accompanied by a continuing guerrilla battle fought by successive American administrations against the terms and scope of the exclusion.
Emergent Distinctionsin an Interdisciplinary Collaboration
This article analyzes ethnographic material from several art and science research collaborations that were funded under a single funding scheme in the UK between 2003 and 2006. The material illustrates the way that distinctions between aesthetic value and utility value emerged during the interactions of the participants. It outlines how conceptual positions about the contrasting value of art and of science shaped their collaborative practice. I relate key distinctions that emerged in their statements to the parallel division in intellectual property law between copyright and patent. The intention is to show how seemingly natural and given differences that inform both law and disciplinary practice are generated and regenerated in a manner that divides persons, things, and disciplines in the very practices that these categories reciprocally inform and shape.
Biosocial networks of confiscation and destruction in Canada
While farmers set up conditions for the development of plants, the seeds they help grow into plants determine conditions for the farmers. Modern plants not only have agronomic characteristics but also intellectual property rights, phytosanitary regulations, and classifications attached to them. Interacting with their seeds creates fields of property and power, situations of possibility and impossibility, in which farmers and breeders operate. The biosocial networks from which seeds emerge are animated by bureaucratic measures, property relations, and research and cultivation practices that I will explore in action. Seeds not only become what they are in multifarious networks of natural, cultural, and political agencies, but their emergence and coevolution with humans is ruptured through deregistration, persecution, confiscation, and destruction of proprietary seeds. This article will take the reader from the fields of farmers in Saskatchewan to seed breeders in Saskatoon and ultimately to public meetings organized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Ottawa.
Donald M. Nonini
Marilyn Strathern, in her collection of essays, Commons and Borderlands (2004: 39–40), reflects on interdisciplinary research collaboration and its products in the contemporary British university setting. She points to two opposed pressures on such research. One, seeking “undivided outcomes,” comes from those engaged in interdisciplinary research who see “an object held in common, the joint product, multi-authored, of diverse efforts.” The other comes from those determined to attribute “ownership” as a matter of “undivided origins” to an individual “owner” of the object—its presumed creator—who can be uniquely identified and appropriately awarded, often with legal intellectual property rights in the form of patents or copyrights. While the perspective of researchers connected to the former impetus is one in which several researchers see themselves as bringing their complementary knowledges to bear in an “orientation to a joint project (‘problem solving’, etc.) [which] takes precedence” (ibid.: 48n4), that of the latter requires that they parse out origins to specify how “collaboration can be unpicked to identify the individual person, or the individual team, with whom the origin rests undivided” (ibid.: 40). Both pressures are, in the case of the British academy, very recent. Calls for interdisciplinary research have been articulated over the same period of the past two decades during which new property claims have been made—by universities, by ‘society’, and by for-profit corporations—on intellectual creations in the university milieu.