Seed companies form rival lobby group
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New Delhi: A bitter fight over intellectual property rights and government regulation of the seed industry in India had a major fallout on Friday, with research and development (R&D)-based seed companies, mostly multinationals, coming together to form a new association.
The new body with 10 founding members will be known as Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII), is a counter to the largest association of seed producers with 374 members, the National Seed Association of India (NSAI).
NSAI over the past year lobbied the centre for more government regulation which led to capping of royalties on genetically modified Bt cotton, and a draft licensing guideline for seed technologies which research driven multinationals saw as anti-innovation.
The new seed body comprises of companies such as Bayer, Dow Agro, Dupont Pioneer, Mahyco, Metahelix, Monsanto, Namdhari, Rasi Seeds, Shriram Bioseeds, and Syngenta. “The key purpose of the new association will be to provide a platform to bring together like-minded seed companies who are committed to creation and protection of intellectual property,” said Raju Barwale, managing director of Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Pvt. Ltd (Mahyco) and a founding member of FSII.
Sharad Khurana, country manager for DuPont Pioneer, said, “we believe markets should determine prices (of seed technology) and not government or regulators.”
“As innovators we invest heavily on R&D and we expect a return... forceful licensing (of new technology) will stifle innovation,” he added.
According to the new association, the members comprise about 30% of domestic seed market and together these companies invest about Rs.525 crore in R&D.
NSAI president and head of Nuziveedu Seeds, M. Prabhakar Rao, disagreed on the need to form a new association.
“In a liberalized economy regulation is a norm rather than exception,” Rao said, adding, “in 2007 most of these companies belonged to the All India Crop Biotech Association which merged with us. Their earlier association used to litigate on behalf on Monsanto.”
Rao said that except Monsanto, Mahyco and Rasi Seeds, other companies are unlikely to give up membership of NSAI.
“We fundamentally believe that the government is bound to intervene in a public interest issue like agriculture and benefit sharing of traits developed by companies can be regulated under the protection of plant varieties and farmer’s rights act.”
According to Rao, the domestic seed industry currently spends Rs.150- 200 crore on research every year, and most of the R&D costs of multinationals are incurred outside India.