In an another legal blow to Monsanto, India’s Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the Delhi High Court’s ruling that the seed giant cannot claim patents for Bollgard and Bollgard II, its genetically modified cotton seeds, in the country.
Monsanto’s chief technology officer Robert Fraley, who just announced that he and other top executives are stepping down from the company after Bayer AG’s multi-billion dollar takeover closes, lamented the news.
Fraley tweeted, “Having personally helped to launch Bollgard cotton in India & knowing how it has benefited farmers … it’s sad to see the country go down an anti-science/anti-IP/anti-innovation path…”
Monsanto first introduced its GM-technology in India in 1995. Today, more than 90 percent of the country’s cotton crop is genetically modified. These crops have been inserted with a pest-resistant toxin called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.
Citing India’s Patents Act of 1970, the Delhi High Court ruled last month 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.
Because of the ruling, Monsanto’s claims against Nuziveedu for unpaid royalties have been waived, as its patents are now invalid under Indian law. Royalties will now be decided by the government.
With help of local organisations, the Panga Kodhs have gone back to traditional, organic, mixed cropping methods. Even the forests are benefiting.
“I’m born of this soil. Putting poison in the soil is like poisoning one’s parents. Why would I harm myself like this?”, says Adi Kumurka. Kumurka belongs to the Panga Kondh indigenous community in Odisha’s Rayagada district. His community is engaged in mixed organic cropping from traditional seeds. This is the traditional way of farming that his community has practised since untold times. But there was a long gap in between when malnourishment and farmer suicides compelled these traditional farmers to migrate to faraway places to look for jobs. What changed?
Recently, I happened upon new publication published in mid-October by La Via Campesina, a global peasant and small farmers movement, entitled Struggles of La Via Campesina for Agrarian Reform and the Defense of Life, Land, and Territories. The 29-page report analyzes the issues faced around the world in the context of food sovereignty and food production, and explains the need for an integrated’ agrarian reform within a global context. The document recognizes that models of reform cannot be “static,” must go beyond issues of land tenure and include fishers and the marine environment, and must include comprehensive policies that control profit-making related to food.