Tuesday, March 5, 2013


With the advent of WTO, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) became a hot issue with well to do countries insisting on their inalienable right to protect their innovations from being hijacked by others and the argument has always been that only such IPR regime can lead to innovation coming out of huge investments on research. To some extent this is a valid claim and world has to live with such an environment. While IPR and related restrictions in areas not involving life and death is understandable, what cannot be digested is the intensity with which private investors are creating new products out of natural materials like plants and trying to monopolize the business through unethical practices. Genetically Modified Food is a classical example where naturally occurring plant materials are subjected to biological transformation through well established Bio-technology methods to get newer versions with slightly different characteristics. The seeds using GM technologies so developed are priced high and to put further economic strain on the farmer the seeds from the first crop are not allowed to be reused for planting the second crop forcing the users to depend on the seed suppliers perennially. Scores of law suits foisted on the farmers in the US and other countries for IPR infringement are making the life miserable for the agriculturists for which international community must find some solace. Here is a comprehensive report that illustrates the woes of farmers vis-a-vis giant seed monopolists who command huge economic, political and muscle clout to enslave the former.  

"The new report investigates how the current seed patent regime has led to a radical shift to consolidation and control of global seed supply and how these patents have abetted corporations, such as Monsanto, to sue U.S. farmers for alleged seed patent infringement. Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers also examines broader socio-economic consequences of the present patent system including links to loss of seed innovation, rising seed prices, reduction of independent scientific inquiry, and environmental issues. Debbie Barker, Program Director for Save Our Seeds and Senior Writer for the Report, said today:  "Corporations did not create seeds and many are challenging the existing patent system that allows private companies to assert ownership over a resource that is vital to survival, and that, historically, has been in the public domain." Among the report's discoveries are several alarming statistics:
 * As of January 2013, Monsanto, alleging seed patent infringement, had filed 144 lawsuits involving 410 farmers and
56 small farm businesses in at least 27 different
    * Today, three corporations control 53 percent of the global commercial seed market.
    * Seed consolidation has led to market control resulting in dramatic increases in the price of seeds. From 1995-2011, the average cost to plant one acre of soybeans has risen 325 percent; for cotton prices spiked 516 percent and corn seed prices are up by 259 percent.
The report also disputes seed industry claims that present seed patent rules are necessary for seed innovation.  As Bill Freese, senior scientist at Center for Food Safety and one of the report's contributors notes:  "Most major new crop varieties developed throughout the 20th century owe their origin to publicly funded agricultural research and breeding."

Imagine how these powerful vested interests are able to get away by constantly uttering untruths and half truths to overwhelm vulnerable governments to toe their line and enrich their pockets! If one listens to them and their apologists, Genetically Modified Food is the ultimate answer to food security in the world! Even to day no one has demonstrated in the world that GM seeds can increase the yield of a single plant variety, though there might be overall increase from the land due to marginal reduction in spoilage! Look at the financial health of half a dozen monstrous GM seed peddlers to realize what killing they are making out of the miseries of millions of farmers. These ruthless players are so intolerant of scientific criticism that they do not want the products from their seeds to be even labeled on the packet in a country like the US for which the ruling elite there is conniving with them.  It is time that developing countries like India do not entertain them which can result only in marginalizing the poor farmer further in these impoverished countries where farmer suicides are a daily event!


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