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India seed bodies: R&D in agri-biotech to be hit after court order on Bt cotton patentqrcode

May. 7, 2018

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May. 7, 2018
Seed industry bodies FSII and AAI have expressed disappointment over a court order dismissing US-biotech major Monsanto's plea to enforce patent for its BT cotton seeds in India, saying this may cause "irreparable damage" to agri and crop-biotech research while depriving farmers from new farm technologies.

Last month, a bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Yogesh Khanna of Delhi High Court partially allowed the counter-claims of three Indian seed companies, including Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd, that Monsanto does not have a patent for its BT cotton seeds, a genetically modified variant which resists bollworms.

Monsanto's JV firm Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL) has sub-licensed Bt cotton seed technology to various domestic seed companies since 2002 and charges royalty.

The Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) and the Alliance for Agri Innovation (AAI), which have been formed by MNCs and Indian seed companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer Bioscience, DuPont Pioneer and Rasi Seeds, have expressed concern over the order.

"The order by the Honourable Delhi High Court will have deep implications for agricultural research in India. This will have a significant bearing for Indian farmers who could be at a severe disadvantage with lack of research investments and access to globally available innovation," Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) President M Ramasami said in a statement.

"We are extremely disappointed by this ruling, which has dealt a deadly blow to R&D efforts in agri-biotech in India, at a time when India critically needs infusion of new technologies to increase yields and farmers' income in the face of challenges due to climate change," AAI President Dr Paresh Verma said in a separate statement.

Stating that this order would also impact severely the government research institutes that invests a lot more than the industry, he said the biggest lower would be farmers who would be denied the benefits of new technologies.

AAI Executive Director Shivendra Bajaj said this judgement would be a signal to crop biotech industry that its innovations going forward in the future would have the risk of no protection. This would consequently discourage any new investments in agricultural biotechnology and allied fields.

FSII's Director (Finance) Ajai Rana said: "Such a sudden invalidation of this patent comes after nearly a decade of its grant is highly unfortunate. This order has the potential to cause irreparable damage to research programs in the agriculture biotechnology sector."

The research activities in multiple crops like cotton, maize, rice and vegetables will come to a grinding halt as there would be low prospects of patenting and commercializing novel invention, he added.

FSII represents research-based seed companies in India. In August 2016, ten major domestic and global seed firms, including Monsanto, Bayer and Dow, formed this body. The other seven founding members are Dupont Pioneer, Syngenta, Mahyco, Metahelix Life Sciences, Namdhari Seeds, Rasi Seeds and Bioseed-South Asia.

Recently, some global and domestic seed companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Rasi Seeds and Shriram Bioseeds have formed a new association AAI to take up the policy issues related to the sector and promote new farm technologies. Bayer Bioscience, Dow Agro Sciences, DuPont Pioneer, Mahyco and Metahelix are other AAI members.

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