Fighting biopiracy

Published: Sunday 31 December 2000

a 'new variety' of basmati rice, which has been developed by a us company is a clear example of biopiracy of traditional knowledge of Indian farmers, said a coalition group. The coalition includes uk -based Action Aid, Swiss-based World Wide Fund for Nature and other concerned with the protection of biodiversity. "This is a clear example of biopiracy, which the us government perhaps unwittingly supports," the group stated. Cross-breeding should not be considered as a novel invention, the group added. According to them, the patent right on the new variety held by Texas-based RiceTec should be revoked.

The group is trying to persuade the us patent office to revoke the patent, that may in future encourage the control of multinationals over staple food crops in the developing world. The Indian government has also successfully challenged four of the 20 claims to novelty made by RiceTec in its patent granted in 1997. According to the group, the Indian government should challenge the remaining claims. The patent gives the company exclusive rights in the us and abroad to grow and sell the new variety. The variety has been developed by cross breeding Indian basmati and long grain and semi-dwarf varieties.

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