Renewable Farming

Supreme court of India: Seeds cannot be patented under laws of India

This significant news slipped below the radar in America’s ag press: India’s highest court has confirmed that Monsanto patents on two varieties of GMO cotton seed cannot be enforced under Indian law.

May 12, 2018: A news service widely read throughout India reports: “As a result, the patent held by Monsanto, through its Indian arm Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL) over its Bollgard-II Bt cotton seed technology, a GM variant which resists the bollworm pest, was decreed to be unenforceable in India.”

Dr. Vandana Shiva

A longtime Indian opponent of transgenic technology, Dr. Vandana Shiva, posted a Twitter note calling the court’s decision a “major victory” that opens the door “to make Monsanto pay for trapping farmers in debt by extracting illegal royalties on .”

The website EcoWatch reported on the possible ripple effects of the Supreme Court’s decision, also noting that biotech firms are likely to look for other ways around it. Amid the controversy, the patent holders have been denied tech fee royalties.

The roots of this saga reach back more than five years. You can read a more detailed background in this 2013 article on the GlobalResearch site.

Last fall, a report in GMWATCH, “The fall of GM cotton in India,” chronicled how Monsanto and its Indian partner firms promoted transgenic cotton through India with positive initial benefits, only to have rising costs, insect resistance, higher chemical expense and financially trapped farmers in its wake.

The cumulative effect of GMO and glyphosate controversies around the globe is gradually unraveling the early no-problem-here-folks story that the biotech industry spins.   Here’s just one example: In Sri Lanka, rising chronic disease levels in regions of intensive rice cultivation led national leaders to ban all glyphosate use.  Earlier this year, a subsequent government decision reinstated its use except for rice. However, tea growers are concerned that because of glyphosate’s wide use in tea plantations, tea exports contain glyphosate residue. Those concerns emerged in responses to a March 2018 report in a Sri Lanka website on “lifting the glyphosate ban.”