By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Saturday 15 November 2008

Seed multinationals rush for patents

SIX leading multinational seed companies, BASF, Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Bayer and Dow, have claimed patent rights on seeds and knowledge designed to combat the impact of climate change in agriculture.

They have filed 532 applications in various patent offices for such seeds and plant genomes. Monsanto and BASF have a us $1.5 billion joint-venture for developing climate-ready genes.

"It is unacceptable that these six companies should monopolise and control all the dna sequencing that can be used to respond to any kind of stress. There are many local seeds which are drought-resistant, salinity-tolerant and resistant to water-logging. If these are patented, it will be a scary situation," said Pat Roy Mooney, Right Livelihood Award winner and founder of the Ottawa-based ETC group that works on cultural and ecological issues.

Addressing a conference in Delhi, Mooney said concentration of such patents in the hands of a few companies was not good for world food security. "They could deny access of such seeds to some countries, the prices of these seeds would be extremely high and unaffordable to developing countries," he added.

Director of the uk-based Institute of Science in Society, Mae-Won Ho, objected to the very concept of patenting of genes. "It is possible that one dna has many functions and several dnas have the same function. This is nature's gift and should not be patented," she said.

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