strategy

Preventing monopolization of gene patents of organisms

Synonyms:
Preventing exclusive patenting of plant and animal genetic resources
Context:

In the 1970s, NGOs started alerting people to a double disaster. They warned that genetic erosion in agriculture was gaining tremendous ground, especially in the South's cradles of crop biodiversity, and that the world's seed supply was falling under the control of a few agrochemical corporations.

Implementation:

In April 2018, the Delhi High Court ruled that Monsanto cannot claim patents for Bollgard and Bollgard II, its genetically modified cotton seeds, in the country.  Citing India's Patents Act of 1970, the court said that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented, thereby rejecting Monsanto's attempt to block its Indian licensee, Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd, from selling the seeds.  What it means is effectively Monsanto has no patent on seeds in India and they have never had it. Monsanto had already threatened to stop business in India after the government imposed price controls on cotton seeds in 2016. However, the company's presence in India may ultimately be decided by its pending mega-merger with Bayer AG.)

Previously, Indian farmers have marched in the streets of Delhi to denounce a US patent on their basmati rice and in 1998 India's agriculture minister banned the import of seeds containing the Terminator gene because of the potential harm to Indian agriculture. The Terminator patent is one of the key issues that prompted the Dutch to renew objections to the Patent Directive that was passed by the European Parliament.

 

Claim:

Multinational agrochemical corporations and other parties are trying to legally monopolize gene patents of plants, animals, and genes. In succeeding, they would be allowed to patent and own valuable life forms, often found with the assistance of indigenous people in their own forests, not only possibly denying them financial compensation, but potentially forcing them to pay royalties on products derived from these resources. It is widely agreed that the world's biodiversity should be treated as common heritage, and not the property of the select few. No one has or should have the right to exclusively own genetic material or whole organisms for themselves. These resources are sacred and should be shared by all.

2. Biopiracy and patenting of indigenous knowledge is a double theft because first it allows theft of creativity and innovation, and secondly, the exclusive rights established by patents on stolen knowledge steal economic options of everyday survival on the basis of our indigenous biodiversity and indigenous knowledge. Overtime, the patents can be used to create monopolies and make everyday products highly priced Intellectual property rights (IPR) grant inventors monopolies in exchange for their socially valuable innovations, a privilege that the U.S. interprets as a corporate right to privatize plants, animals, and other forms of life. Agrochemical-pharmaceutical companies, calling themselves the "life industry," successfully crafted global IPR through the Uruguay Round of GATT trade negotiations. Monopoly control of plants is contributing to the destruction of food security and public interest research, as well as to the loss of biological diversity and ecological health.

Counter Claim:

Monsanto has long been accused of overcharging farmers for its seeds, especially given the fact that their ability to resist pests diminishes with time. The high cost of seeds and royalties left thousands of farmers in a vicious cycle of debt, which inevitably led to many suicides when crops failed. As a result, the government was forced to start regulating Bt cotton prices in 2006.  Hence, the Delhi High Court's ruling can be seen as a moral reckoning on Monsanto. But it also has wider implications. Yes, it will reduce prices for farmers, given that seed licensing companies pass on the royalty costs to them, but it could prove to be the death knell for innovation in the agriculture sector—something that will hurt farmers in the long run.

Type Classification:
F: Exceptional strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions