NBA struggles to frame case against Mahyco in first biopiracy case
Whose germplasm is it?
In early 2005 when an agreement was signed between India’s leading seed company and two agriculture universities, it was heralded as a breakthrough in genetically engineered food crops in the country. Bt brinjal is a suite of transgenic brinjals (also called eggplant) created by inserting a crystal protein gene (Cry1Ac) from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. The company was Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, better known as Mahyco, and the universities were University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) in Dharwad and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) in Coimbatore.
The public-private partnership was kicked off with a “sublicense agreement” between Mahyco, which is 26 per cent owned by agro-biotech giant Monsanto, and UAS-Dharwad and a material transfer agreement with TNAU. Under the agreements, Mahyco provided the universities with finished or semi-finished domestic GM brinjals to develop insect-tolerant varieties. The universities, which supplied their germplasm to Mahyco, were allowed to further develop the licensed domestic brinjal products to make them suitable for use in their states for subsequent distribution to farmers. However, Mahyco retained intellectual property rights on GM brinjal, stating that “under no circumstance shall the licensed domestic eggplant products be used as parental lines for purposes of production of hybrids”.
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