DuPont unit accuses Kaveri of gene piracy

DuPont unit accuses Kaveri of gene piracy

Mumbai: Pioneer Overseas Corp. has accused Hyderabad-based Kaveri Seeds of copying the gene structure of a variety of corn developed by the Iowa, US-based firm.

A group company of chemical multinational DuPont that develops genetically modified crop varieties, Pioneer Overseas has objected to the registration of a hybrid maize plant variety by Kaveri Seeds at India’s Plant Varieties Registry. The registry is an agency of the agriculture ministry that grants intellectual property rights on newly developed plant varieties.

Gene piracy is rare because the processes are typically complicated and it takes a long time to develop a genetically modified living species, compared with abundant copies in drugs, engineering, information technology, electronics, art and publishing.

The plant variety registered by Kaveri Seeds was developed from its own research, said chief scientific officer Malla Reddy. “We have now moved court against the registry’s decision to allow Pioneer Overseas to oppose our registration by extending the time for such a move," Reddy said.

Pioneer Overseas asked the registry in early September for more time than is stipulated in such cases to file its opposition to Kaveri Seeds’ plant after it allegedly found the Indian company’s research was identical to its own.

According to Archana Shankar, a lawyer representing Pioneer Overseas at the registry on the piracy matter, her client moved against the registration of Kaveri’s new plant variety after it found that the gene line of the plant was identical to the one developed by the US farm research company.

Pioneer Overseas had earlier registered its new plant, also a hybrid corn, at India’s plant variety registry.

“Copying the germ plasm and DNA lines of a living species, including hybrid seeds or plants, to have them identical, is normally so difficult unless the research documents prepared by the original inventor at each stage of the research all through its seven-eight year development period is shared with or misappropriated by an outsider," said V.R. Shelar, a seed research scientist and the nodal officer at MP Krishi Vidyapeet distinctiveness, uniformity and stability (DUS) test centre for the registry at Ahmednagar in Maharashtra.

DUS centres check new varieties of plants for distinctiveness, uniformity in reproduction and stability in characteristics before they are registered. The registration provides intellectual property protection for 15-20 years.

Pioneer is primarily focused on development of genetically modified crops, including hybrids of corn, sorghum, sunflower and canola. It operates more than 100 research stations and maintains about 75 production locations worldwide.

The 30-year-old Kaveri Seeds is a pioneer in Indian agro-biotech and focuses on developing hybrid plant varieties.