Just thinking about the right (or wrong) types of food make many people hungry. When ingested in whatever form, tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”), which is the active ingredient in marijuana, cleverly fits into a group of receptors in the brain which controls the sensitivity of, among other things, the human appetite and thought processes. It is submitted that the average person has to do a little bit more than think about THC to get hungry (imaginations welcome). That being said, securing Jamaica’s food and its marijuana is something to give serious thought to, with particular contemplation to be given to the legal framework which surrounds both issues.
The understanding of national food security is that a state is seen as being food secure when there is sufficient food to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices. The cornerstones of food security are availability, access, utilization and stability. Probably the most important factors in the availability of food are the production techniques employed. More and more funding is being poured into the science of food to ensure that certain plant varieties are as efficient as possible in terms of yield and quality. Interestingly, although much attention is being paid to certain plant varieties, the variety of plants that are consumed around the world has drastically decreased over centuries.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that humans have used over 10,000 species for food throughout history. However, only about 120 cultivated species constitute 90% of food requirements and 4 species (maize, wheat, rice and potatoes) provide approximately 60% of human dietary energy for the globe’s population. There have been multitudes of crops developed by farmers over thousands of years, however over 75% of them have been lost in the past 100 years. This paints a picture of a growing world population, more convinced than ever of the types of food that it wants or is forced to eat, with a myriad of countries trying to produce these crops more competitively than each other. This is international capitalism at its finest. Innovation will always be the sharp end of the sword in globally competitive markets. Innovation is the fruit of investment, and wise investments have an affinity towards seeking protection.
The protection that small farmers, large agricultural powerhouses, scientists, and all other parties involved in engineering new plant varieties are all vying for is the intellectual property rights which can be grounded in plant genetics. One of the first living things to be afforded such protection was actually a form of bacteria which is capable of breaking down crude oil. After a long legal battle the United States Supreme Court ruled in favour of an engineer employed to General Electric who was then able to own the patent to the microorganism. This particular bacterium was seen as crucial as it has the potential of severely lessening the environmental damage which takes place in oil spills.
Plant varieties may be patented in some jurisdictions once they meet the applicable requirements. Governments around the world have an inherent interest in ensuring that they have the best science and technology available to them, particularly when these tools play an important role in the food security of a nation. It comes as no surprise then that these governments have agreed to share this technology, and by extension share their intellectual property through the medium of a Treaty.