Peeved at the intrusive regulations mooted by the government on pricing and licensing of genetically modified seeds, big international seed firms have decided to fight the move in unison: Executives from the Indian arms of Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, Dupont Pioneer and Syngenta on Friday said they would now liaise with the government under the banner of a new Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII).
According to Raju Barwale, managing director of Mahyco, Monsanto’s India partner, the new entity would primarily focus on providing a forum for research-based seed industry and seed technology companies. Barwale said FSII now represents 34% of the Indian seed industry. So far, private seed firms have been represented by the National Seed Association of India, which has 374 members representing over 70% of the industry.
However, in view of divergence in interests among the players, the multinational firms which spend billions of dollars on R&D and are keen to protect their intellectual property rights s and proprietary knowledge have come under a separate umbrella.
“The key purpose and commitments of the FSII include providing a platform that will bring together like-minded seed companies who are committed to the seed business, intellectual property rights creation and protection and working for the welfare of Indian farmers,” a statement from FSSI said.
The show of solidarity comes after Monsanto, which pioneered the use of GM cotton in India, pulled an application for its next-generation product from the approvals process on concerns over the security of its intellectual property. An executive from Bayer India said nobody would invest in research if the proposed introduction of compulsory licensing — which would force a company to share its intellectual property if the government so orders — is implemented.
As reported by FE earlier, challenging the government’s proposals to cap royalty for GM seeds and deprive it of the freedom to choose the local licensees and negotiate commercial terms with them, Monsanto alleged the move was “both bad in law and policy” and amounted to usurping its patent, which falls within the larger definition of property in the Constitution and is inalienable from it unless by authority of law.
The seed-tech company, in its response to the agriculture ministry’s draft guidelines on GM technology agreements issued in May, said that if implemented, these would set at naught all the benefits delivered to Indian farmers over the last one and half decade via its GM cotton.
India does not yet allow GM food crops, whose introduction could help reduce heavy import bills for items like edible oils that it needs to feed its huge and growing population. A domestically developed GM mustard product is, however, inching its way through the approvals process.