National Seed Association of India director general quits over intellectual property rights concerns on GM crops
Jun. 27, 2018
In a sign of turmoil in the Indian seed industry, National Seed Association of India (NSAI) director general Kalyan Goswami has resigned, following differences with the association’s stance on intellectual property rights (IPR).
Goswami’s resignation last week is significant as NSAI, the largest industry body with 534 member companies, had successfully lobbied for price control of genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds, which the agriculture ministry introduced in 2016, much to the discomfort of multinational giants like Monsanto.
Mint has learned from industry insiders that the latest turmoil is due to differences between Goswami and NSAI president M. Prabhakar Rao on IPR issues.
Rao is also the chairman of Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd, a Hyderabad-based company that has frequently sparred with seed giants like Monsanto. In April this year, in a case filed by Monsanto on violations of patent rights by Nuziveedu, the Delhi high court ruled that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented under Indian laws.
Goswami refused to comment for this story.
When contacted, Rao claimed he was “not aware” that Goswami had resigned. “But I am surprised that IPR is (being) made into an issue... NSAI took a stand as an industry body and our position (on price control of Bt cotton) has been upheld by courts,” Rao said.
A scientist and expert on GM technology said on condition of anonymity: “NSAI committed a big mistake by seeking price control and disregarding patent rights... Because some established players wanted the technology for free, the domestic industry is shattered by this selfish behaviour.”
Following the price control order and further lobbying by NSAI, the agriculture ministry in May 2016 introduced licensing guidelines for GM crops, which barred technology developers from charging more than 10% of the sale price of seeds as royalty.
Facing criticism that these guidelines will deter research, innovation and introduction of new technology in Indian agriculture, the government withdrew the guidelines within days.
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