The National Seeds Association of India (NSA) is of the belief that there is no need of prescribing a compulsory licensing or a format for licensing for companies in the proposed GM trait licensing guidelines issued by the ministry of Agriculture.
The ministry has proposed guidelines for trait value fixation and licensing and also specifies format for the GM Technology (GM Trait) Licensing Agreement.
In a note to the department of agricutlure and cooperation, the association has welcomed the initiative taken by the ministry to bring clarity and order into GM trait licensing and trait value fixation.
According to the association, the monopoly in BT cotton trait licensing has led to a situation where not only the seed industry suffered but also farmers had complaints about the high and varying seed prices.
The breeding programme of many small and medium companies who could not sign the restrictive and unaffordable licence agreements could not be carried forward.
The public sector breeding programme did not make use of the GM trait despite the PPVFR law under Section 30 leading to depletion in the competition.
The few GM traits developed by the public sector could not be stacked with the available GM traits leading to the spread of a single trait throughout the country, which resulted in the loss of efficacy and the pink bollworm developing resistance, Kalyan Goswami, executive director of the association, said in the note to the ministry.
According to him, the availability of multiple traits by stacking different traits conferring by different genes would have been a good tool to manage resistance build-up.
The severe damage caused to the farmers due to the damage by pink bollworm resulted in low yields and thereby led to the cotton prices shooting up leading to severe difficulties to the textile industry.
The cotton area has come down to 100 lakh hectares due to farmers moving away from cotton as a result of the financial losses registering a second consecutive fall of the planted area.
Availability of multiple traits which was illegally blocked by private contracts has led to the situation, the association has said.
The association pointed out that seeds, plants and parts cannot be patented as clearly barred in the patent law. The IP rights are granted for plant varieties, GM traits and seeds only under the PPVRF ACt.
Despite such clarity in law, the stipulation of ‘no objection certificate’ (NOC) and approval of every hybrid carrying the biodafety cleared trait after submission of NOC and letter of confirmation (LOC) has led to a situation where seed companies had to sign one sided technology licence agreements leading to monopoly in the cotton seed market.
According to NSAI, the breeders have a right to access any transgenic variety for developing new varieties and need not sign any licence agreements for carrying out the basic activities of the seed company.