The author draws on various perspectives presented in the literature on intellectual property rights, food, farming, biodiversity, and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and related agreements. He highlights the policy questions for developing countries by TRIPS, examines the key ethical, economic, environmental and social issues surrounding its provisions, and considers the possible contributions of overseas development assistance.

The report concludes that the TRIPS agreement could either undermine food security and biodiversity or enhance it, depending upon the relative effects of the various provisions — the costs and benefits are not clear cut nor are they likely to be equally distributed. The author recommends that until the influence of intellectual property rights on agriculture and biodiversity are better understood, flexibility within the TRIPS agreement should be retained.

The paper is written for policy makers, primarily in developing countries, in agriculture, environment and trade and those responsible for ensuring policy coherence across government departments.