New book: Agrobiodiversity and the law

The Agrobiodiversity Grapevine is very happy to introduce our guest blogger, Dr. Juliana Santilli who will be discussing her recently published book “Agrobiodiversity and the Law: regulating genetic resources, food security and cultural diversity”

Dr. Santilli is a lawyer and a public prosecutor in the Federal District of Brazil, specialized in Environmental and Cultural Heritage Law and Public Policies. She has a PhD in Environmental Law, and is an associate researcher in Environmental Law at the University of Brasília, Center for Sustainable Development, and is a co-founding member of the Brazilian civil society organization Instituto Socioambiental (

“Agrobiodiversity and the Law”

 Loss of agricultural diversity, at varying levels, is associated with the industrialization of agriculture, particularly after the Green Revolution, and cannot be attributed to legal systems only. However, many laws and regulations have direct impacts on agrobiodiversity, and they have been underestimated and sometimes not even considered by policy-makers and legislators. Agrobiodiversity and associated cultural diversity are major values that must be encompassed in all regulations that affect biological, genetic, and agroecosystem diversity.

The main objective of the book “Agrobiodiversity and the Law: regulating genetic resources, food security and cultural diversity” is to analyze the impacts that inter­national and national legal instruments have on agrobiodiverse farming systems and on the local small-scale farmers who conserve and manage them. However, before analyzing legal instruments in themselves, we dis­cuss what agrobiodiversity is, and show its important interfaces with food security, nutrition, health, social equity, environmental sustainability, and climate change. Understanding the multiple connections and implications of agrobiodiversity is essential to comprehend why it is so important that agricultural and rural development laws prioritize its conservation and sustainable use.

The book analyzes seed production, utilization, and sales laws, IP rights over plant varieties (and the so-called plant breeders’ rights), farmers’ rights, livestock keepers’ rights, and access and benefit-sharing regulations and their impacts on plant and animal genetic resources for food and agri­culture, among others. On the other hand, it shows that some legal tools that were not conceived primarily for agrobiodiversity conservation can also be used for this purpose, such as biological open source and creative commons, protected areas, and geographical indications. Positive and nega­tive effects in different countries are also discussed.

We comprehend crops and agroecosystems as cultural artifacts, made and molded by man as much as ceramics, buildings, monuments, and other works of art. Therefore, the book discusses how legal instruments con­ceived to safeguard cultural heritage can also be used to recognize and promote agrobiodiverse farming systems and all of their components, both tangible (such as landscapes and cultivated plants) and intangible (agri­cultural techniques, practices, and knowledge), as well as the social and cultural processes that maintain and enrich them. Intangible cultural herit­age registries and cultural landscapes recognition and protection, as well as the safeguarding of globally important ingenious agricultural heritage systems, are analyzed from the perspective of agrobiodiversity conservation and sustainable use.

Historically, public policies have focused mainly on wild biodiversity, and cultivated biodiversity has received very little attention not only from public officials but also from environmentalists, civil society organizations, and the general public. However, protecting species and varieties of maize, rice, beans, wheat, etc., as well as the diversity of agroecosystems, is no less important than saving the Amazon rainforest and threatened wild species such as panda bears, birds, turtles, etc. It is my sincere hope that this book will contribute to the development of more effective policies, legislation, and regulations governing in situ and on-farm management of agrobiodi­versity, as well as for the protection of farmers’ and livestock keepers’ rights.

~ Juliana Santilli

Our readers will be be interested to know that this interesting book has been endorsed by:

Regine Andersen, The Farmers´ Rights Project, Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway

 “This book is a must for all involved in the management of crop genetic resources. Santili’ s clear, comprehensive and updated account of the major international developments draws on a broad foundation of previous research, illustrated with examples from around the world. Agrobiodiversity and the Law represents a central contribution to our understanding of this important topic”; and by

Alberto Ninio, Chief Counsel, Environmental and Social Safeguards, The World Bank, Washington D.C.

“Dr. Juliana Santilli, a well established and recognized environmental lawyer and prosecutor in Brazil presents us with a comprehensive and brilliant analysis of one of the most challenging topics of our times: environmental protection and agriculture.  Instead of adopting the easy approach of “taking sides”, Dr. Santilli’s book recognizes the challenges, examines issues with historical and legal lenses and proposes practical recommendations, all based on cutting-edge scholarly research. This is a must-have book for all those working in the field of environmental law, conservation and rural development”.

Anthony Gross, Senior Felow of United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies 

“Agrobiodiversity – our shared heritage of agricultural species and varieties, and the knowledge and practices of indigenous and traditional farming communities associated with these – is an essential component of human development and well-being, not least as regards food security and adaptation to climate change. Juliana Santilli provides us with a comprehensive overview of the increasingly complex set of international and national legal instruments designed to reverse the current loss of agrobiodiversity and reward those responsible for conserving plant genetic resources and for sharing their associated traditional knowledge. Highly recommended to policy-makers, researchers and other readers seeking an accessible and authoritative introduction to an increasingly important issue.”

“Agrobiodiversity and the Law” can be ordered through the Earthscan/Routledge/Taylor & Francis web site, via this page:


About Bioversity Library

Maintained by staff at Bioversity International Library, this blog aims to provide readers with updates on new information resources within the field of plant genetic resources (PGR), agrobiodiversity and conservation; [with a little fun thrown in as well].
This entry was posted in Biodiversity, Genetic resources, International, Legislation, Livelihoods. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to New book: Agrobiodiversity and the law

  1. Pingback: Nibbles: Law book, Sheep breeding, Pig breeding, Pink mushrooms, Coconut genome, Cassava genome, Apples in the Big Apple, Street food, Irish corner, Peach palm tissue culture, Seed saving, Kenyan farmers, First farmers, Tenure, Peppermint facts, Mountains

  2. Pingback: Nibbles: Law book, Sheep breeding, Pig breeding, Pink mushrooms, Coconut genome, Cassava genome, Apples in the Big Apple, Street food, Irish corner, Peach palm tissue culture, Seed saving, Kenyan farmers, First farmers, Tenure, Peppermint facts, Mountains

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