The Baingan Controversy

India’s first Bio piracy criminal case looks all set to be filed. The likely Complainant in question, the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is taking the United States based seed-giant, Monsanto and its Indian subsidiary, Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Corporation) to court. The Companies are alleged to have developed a genetically modified variety of Brinjal called the BT Brinjal by unauthorisedly using domestic varieties of Brinjal commonly and widely grown in India, in contravention of the provisions of The National Biodiversity Act 2002.

The National Biodiversity Act 2002, which seeks to protect indigenous biological resources, provides a framework for access to indigenous biological resources and sharing the benefits arising out of such access and use. The Act also includes the transfer of research results and application for intellectual property rights (IPRs) relating to Indian biological resources. The Act covers foreigners, non-resident Indians, body corporates, associations or organizations that are either not incorporated in India or incorporated in India with non-Indian participation in their share capital or management. All these individuals or entities require the approval of the NBA when they use biological resources and associated knowledge occurring in India for commercial or research purposes or for the purposes of bio-survey or bio-utilisation.

The issue of genetically modified crops is murky territory with piling evidence of associated health hazards and its potential threat to the livelihood of indigenous farmers. Genetically modified foods have been viewed with suspicion the world over and are a much debated topic globally.

If newspapers are to be believed, the NBA appears to have that decided enough is enough after receiving complaints from farmers in Karnataka that local varieties of Brinjals were being used without permission to manufacture BT Brinjals possibly for commercial purposes by Monsanto and Mahyco.

Allow us to take your memories for a little jog; the BT Brinjal controversy had arisen mid-last year following which the Union Minister of State for Environment, Mr. Jairam Ramesh had announced a moratorium upon cultivation of BT Brinjals, a decision which was both welcomed and criticized.


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