Thursday, Jul 11, 2002
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By Our Special Correspondent
At a round table discussion, experts emphasised that the decision to join the UPOV barely a few months after a "strong'' Plant Varieties Protection Act was adopted, must be discussed in Parliament. The interaction was organised by Gene Campaign. The Indian law not only protects the breeders but gives rights to farmers to use, exchange and even sell seeds as unbranded.
The Former Foreign Secretary, Muchkund Dubey, said that by taking a decision to join the UPOV, the Cabinet had nullified an Act passed by Parliament. He wondered why it was considered necessary to join the UPOV, which did not recognise farmers' rights. "Is it just to be in the company of those who invest and can invest or just to take a symbolic step towards liberalisation and globalisation''
Gene Campaign's Suman Sahai asserted that if India joined the UPOV, it could not retain farmers' rights. She refuted the Agriculture Ministry's claim that the Plant Varieties Act was compatible with the UPOV by quoting from the UPOV, which says that the subject of farmers' rights was mainly the business of the FAO and not of the UPOV.
She also quoted an International Patents Rights Expert from Sheffield University in the U.K., Mike Adcock, who had said in a paper that the UPOV had bent rules to encourage India to join after it had closed admission to the 1978 Convention (the latest is the 1991 Convention). India, a large developing country with major public and private plant breeding sectors did not become an alternative nucleus to UPOV for Asian and African countries most of whom have not joined the UPOV.
Quoting the former chief of the IPR in Indian Council of Agriculture Research, Bala Ravi, Dr. Sahai said, "The accession to the UPOV is a green flag and red carpet welcome to the MNCs to enter the Indian seed sector in accordance with the pro-breeder the UPOV rather than the more restrictive Indian Act. Experts like the former Chairman of Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices Abhijit Sen, Deepak Paintal of the JNU, Krishna Bir Chaudhary of the Bharat Krishak Samaj, the former ICAR scientist, Balram Sharma, all were of the opinion that the move to join the UPOV should be debated and discussed in Parliament.
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