1. GM seeds: Centre’s stand kills innovation, investment, says Deepak Pental

GM seeds: Centre’s stand kills innovation, investment, says Deepak Pental

The government’s contention that once a plant variety is created out of a patented technology the patent loses relevance militated against innovation and investment in agriculture research, noted scientist Deepak Pental said.

By: | New Delhi | Published: June 7, 2017 7:48 AM
The government affidavit was not admitted by the Delhi High Court on technical grounds, and is likely to be resubmitted shortly. (PTI)

The government’s contention that once a plant variety is created out of a patented technology the patent loses relevance militated against innovation and investment in agriculture research, noted scientist Deepak Pental said. He had led the team of Delhi University scientists that developed the high-yielding genetically modified (GM) mustard variety DMH 11; the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) recently recommended commercial release of the variety and a final call remains to be taken by the Union environment ministry. “This variety — DMH11 — can be further multiplied and improved upon by both government and private seed companies. When a private firm makes investment in research, the patent has to rest with it. Why should one invest in research if the patent is not available?” he said. Currently, Pental holds the patent for DMH11 mustard variety. In an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court in a case between GM firm Monsanto and one of its licensees Nuziveedu Seeds, the government had stated that that the patent was irrelevant once a plant variety was created — the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Right (PPVFR) Act would now apply, not the Patents Act. The government affidavit was not admitted by the Delhi High Court on technical grounds, and is likely to be resubmitted shortly. After a Nuziveedu applied for intellectual property protection under the PPVFR Act, it needed to show what it had created belonged to it — this was done by getting a no objection certificate (NOC) from Monsanto.

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This then gave Monsanto a hold over Nuziveedu or any seed company since, after developing one variety with Monsanto’s gene, it would keep developing new ones — and an NOC would be required for each one of these. Several seed firms have been arguing against the need for an NOC. A GEAC official told FE: ‘The GEAC recommended the commercial release of GM mustard. The developer has submitted a commercialisation strategy and is yet to formalise the same in view of their limited resources for scaling up. This commercialisation strategy would be done in consultation with DBT (department of biotechnology) and ministry of agriculture as this technology was funded by the government of India.”

During field trials, DMH11 has showed yield of 20% to 30% more than existing varieties. The research was carried out through funding from National Dairy Development Board and the DBT. DMH11 was the third GM crop after Bt cotton and Bt brinjal to be recommended for commercial release by the regulator. While Bt cotton has been cultivated in the country since 2002, Bt brinjal, the first GM food crop okayed by the GEAC, never hit the fields as an indefinite moratorium was imposed on its commercial release in early 2010 by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

With the GEAC giving its nod, the new environment minister Harsh Vardhan would now have to take a final call on the commercial release of the GM mustard seed as earlier environment minister Anil Madhav Dave passed away recently.

 

  1. M
    MK Narne
    Jun 9, 2017 at 7:22 am
    While writing / publishing / reading such articles having national significance, one should read, understand and respect the law of land and policies of the Government. Right from beginning, patents were denied for plants and seeds in all biotechnology innovations in accordance with Indian Patent law, which is different from patent laws of other countries especially Section 3 (j) does not exist in laws of other countries. Hence in India, patents were granted only to laboratory methods and gene sequences used to develop transgenic plants and patents were denied for transgenic plants and it's seeds. Even Mr. Deepak's patent has no exception. The primary reason for this has been India has adopted sui generis law viz. Protection of plant varieties & farmers rights Act for protection of new or improved plants including transgenic plants. This act provides for rights to farmers & breeders, right to claim benefit share to ensure no Monopoly in agriculture & food security of India.
    Reply
    1. N
      Narasimha Reddy
      Jun 7, 2017 at 3:13 pm
      Pental's response is typical corporate and not that of a scientist. A public scientist would ask a different set of questions. His response exposes his motives - profit and personal glory. These kind of scientists who take public money as ry did not question the government when it failed to act on fake and under quality seeds. He did not react when farmers were committing suicides, and farm scientists were glued to their journal articles on why innovation is not coming. He did not ask for performance appraisal of scientists and their nil contribution to innovation in decades. Deepak Pental does not see beyond his nose is obvious here.
      Reply
      1. C
        C Ravi
        Jun 7, 2017 at 8:06 pm
        So if intel makes a chip, and HP uses it in its personal computer, the patent on the chip ceases to exist? So why have parents at all ? Who in their right mind will spend hundreds of crores in R&D to create new innovation ? No one. This is Nuziveedu's money power talking, not wisdom.
        Reply
        1. M
          MK Narne
          Jun 9, 2017 at 7:38 am
          Your argument is like asking for Patent right on a human, who consumed a vaccine having a patent. Chip and computer are not living things and can't reproduce like a living organism. Further Indian​ law has explicitly​ excluded plants and seeds from patent preview. Hence one should not compare excluded things with non excluded examples.
          1. C
            Chandu N
            Jul 12, 2017 at 4:52 pm
            One more example to support MR MK Narne is like if a person got sick and visit doctor to cure, when doctor cures his disease and charge one time fee that's fine but if the doctor wants to charge royalty from the patient again and again only just because he saved his life that's ridiculous. This is what Monsanto really trying to do.

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