Recent international conventions seeking the stronger protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) have been promoted largely by the OECD countries. Is there evidence to indicate that early benefits have, in fact, been gained by the world s main biotechnology and seed companies? What will be the consequences for developing countries? Will IPR legislation result in better varieties becoming available more quickly? Will it encourage local plant breeding or will IPR predominantly strengthen the market position of foreign seed companies? Will traditional seed diffusion practices become restricted? Most early experience with the implementation of IPR has been gained in developed countries and in Latin America. This paper reviews preliminary evidence against the above questions.