This thesis examines how patent rights governing crop genetic material were structured and implemented in US law and incorporated into the TRIPS Agreement during the period of neo-liberal ascendancy in the late twentieth century. It reveals major fault lines between the philosophical underpinnings of intellectual property and the real world of commerce in these resources. Claims that patents on crop genetic material promote wide social utility are found wanting. In addition to significant distributive, ecological and social consequences, the expansive definition of patentable material and the relaxation of the criteria for patents governing these resources have resulted in the enclosure of genetic information and scientific knowledge, stifling new innovation and the spread of socially valuable knowledge. This work points out the logical flaw in “the-more-rights-the-better” rhetoric about intellectual property and social utility, because innovation depends on having rules that establish a balance between the public domain and private property.