Monsanto, Mahyco and others engaged in agri research fear a major hurdle to fresh investment when the PPVFRA dispenses with the requirement of licences from the technology provider

Hybrid seed manufacturers have opposed the decision of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA) to dispense with the requirement of the no-objection certificate (NoC) from the trait developer for breeding Bt cotton varieties with genetically modified (GM) traits.

Companies such as Monsanto, Mahyco, and others engaged in agricultural research fear a major hurdle to fresh investment in agricultural research, especially in India, when the PPVFRA dispenses with the requirement of licences from the technology provider. This means companies engaged in primary research on patented seed varieties would no longer require to license to the secondary breeder for developing follow-on seed varieties.

The PPVFRA is the regulatory body that supervises the rights of seed companies.

“In the case of varieties incorporating genetically modified (GM) technology, a letter of confirmation or no-objection certificate (NoC) from the technology provider will ensure that proper and accurate information is submitted by the seed company to the regulatory authorities at the time of application. This also ensures a fair and transparent mechanism for farmers and regulators to define the critical credentials of the variety. We would like to clarify that the NoC requirement does not in any way undermine the rights of the plant breeder to seek variety registration – rather it ensures that a breeder did not violate third-party rights when seeking such variety registration,” said Shivendra Bajaj, executive director of the Association for the Biotech Led Enterprises – Agriculture Group (Able – Ag), the representative body of leading biotech companies in India.

The NoC does not violate the PPVFRA Act, because GM crops do not come under its purview, said Bajaj, adding it was consistent with the Act because the PPVFRA required applicants to declare that the variety had been developed using lawfully acquired material. The Authority had obtained a legal opinion that indicated that the NoC stipulation was contravening the legal provisions, giving undue advantages to trait developers such as Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMBL).

MMBL is a 51:49 per cent joint venture between American biotech company Monsanto Inc and Indian company Maharashtra Hybrid Company Ltd (Mahyco), which licenses the GM insect-resistance trait in cotton. A notification in this regard is expected shortly.

Confirming the development, M Ramasami, chairman of Coimbatore-based Rasi Seed and founder president of the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII), said: “We have come to know about this decision through our industry colleagues, but have not seen a notification yet. While this is good for the domestic seed companies, fresh investment in trait development would get impacted.”