Contemporary global order for the promotion of innovation exaggerates the role of intellectual property (IP) as a closed proprietary model of knowledge production and protection. Partly as a boomerang effect of that order or partly as a coincidence of the phenomenal rise in the information and communication technologies or both, there has been increased gravitation toward open, collaborative, shared, communal and interdependent models of innovation. This trend is typified by the rise of open software movement and cognate endeavours.
In this article I attempt to transpose the open innovation dynamic to the context of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGFA); and draws attention to the customary seed sharing and exchange as the centre-piece of the inherent open nature of innovation in agriculture, especially in indigenous and local communities. Focusing on the emergent institutional and legal frameworks for the governance of PGRFA, the article finds that they reflect pragmatic attempts at melding both the IP-driven closed model and the accommodation of open or public goods approach toward the promotion of access and overall management of innovation in PGRFA. It concludes that IP is not necessarily antithetical to open innovation, but could be calibrated to advance it.