Monday, January 9, 2012
Monsanto to face biopiracy charges in India
By Lucas Laursen
Nature Biotechnology Volume: 30, Page: 11 (2012)DOI: doi:10.1038/nbt0112-11
January 09, 2012
An Indian government agency has agreed to sue the developers of genetically modified (GM) eggplant for violating India’s Biological Diversity Act of 2002. India’s National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is alleging that the developers of India’s first GM food crop—Jalna-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) partnered with St. Louis–based seed giant Monsanto and several local universities—used local varieties to develop the transgenic crop, but failed to gain the appropriate licenses for field trials. At the same time, activists in Europe are claiming that patents on conventionally bred plants, including a melon found in India, filed by biotech companies violate farmers’ rights to use naturally occurring breeds. Both these pending legal cases could set important precedents for biopiracy in India and Europe. In another development in early November, the Munich-based European Patent Office referred to its Enlarged Board of Appeals a case involving conventionally bred tomatoes, which will likely shape any future enforcement of the Monsanto-owned melon patent, says Christoph Then, spokesman for advocacy group No Patents on Seeds. “It is a signal that the European Patent Office has severe doubts about this kind of patent,” he says.