As the open data revolution in agriculture and nutrition gathers pace, discussions are emerging about some of the ethical issues involved in equitable sharing and use of data¹, particularly as increasing amounts of data are now generated by or for farmers, although the discussion and implications extend much more widely across the agriculture and nutrition sectors as a whole.
A future for farmers as data generators
Every day farmers around the world generate data about planting, cultivation practices and decisions, farm inputs, harvests and other activities associated with the complex value chains within which they operate. Increasingly food is seen as a global commodity and the livelihoods of farmers depend on successful interactions with volatile global commodity markets, so their decisions and the prices they achieve are of significant interest as sources of information with financial implications worldwide.
As technology advances and many farmers gain more digital connectivity, their contribution to, and access to, available open data will widen, empowering them to seek a voice in raising potentially challenging issues around ownership, unrestricted access, exploitation and data manipulation in a participatory relationship with governments and businesses. Now that data is perceived to have a financial value and food is being firmly established as a global commodity, those originating the data might be expected increasingly to demand rights of ownership and the ability to reuse the data they generate, and to receive some benefit from others using it for profit - even if that is not manifested financially.