Even as the courts decide on the battle between GM firm Monsanto and one of its licensees Nuziveedu Seeds, the government appears to have considerably whittled down the powers the former has in terms of collecting royalties on its patented gene. Right now, Monsanto inserts its gene in seeds to firms like Nuziveedu that use this to create their own plant varieties. While the government tried to argue, last fortnight, 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 — Monsanto still had an upper hand.
The government affidavit was not admitted by the Delhi High Court on technical grounds, and is likely to be resubmitted. 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. This then gave Monsanto a hold over Nuziveedu or any seed company since, after developing one variety with
Mosanto’s gene, it would keep developing new ones — and an NOC would be required for each one of these. While several seed firms have been arguing against the need for an NOC, the government did not agree. In response to a letter from PPVFRA Authority — the body that administers PPVFR — the ministry of agriculture has forwarded the legal opinion of Tushar Mehta, India’s additional solicitor general.
While that opinion discusses various issues such as whether genes can be patented and whether this is covered by the Patent Act or PPVFR, it says the ministry of agriculture “has understood the misuse of NOC by Monsanto and removed the stipulation of obtaining ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) from the trait developer from 2017 onwards”. It goes on to say that, “after removal of NOC… the ICAR and the MoA have started a new procedure … this way even the PPVFR Act will be implemented in true letter and spirit”.