Monsanto sway in Agriculture Ministry

In a major goof-up, GOI fails to submit before Delhi High Court on GMO involving Monsanto

In a major goof-up, GOI fails to submit before Delhi High Court on GMO involving Monsanto
GOI fails to submit before Delhi High Court on GMO
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In a shocking development, officials of the Union Ministry of Agriculture deliberately failed to submit the Government of India’s views on the Indian Patent Act and Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 (PPV&FR) before the Delhi High Court closed for vacations on June 5, in a case in which the judgement could impact multiple litigations in which the Centre is involved, regarding seed patents and transgenic traits. Any ruling delivered without knowledge of the Centre’s views on points of law and interpretation in this matter could adversely affect the Indian farmer and consumer.

The lapse is inexcusable because the Proposed Affidavit and Written Submission were prepared well in advance by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, and discussed and finalized with joint secretary R.K. Singh and deputy commissioner D.S. Misra of the Ministry.

The case in question is a dispute between Monsanto Technology & others vs. Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd. & others, and the Delhi High Court has completed hearings in the matter. Hence it was imperative that the Union Government’s views be submitted to the Court in writing, before it closed for vacation on June 5, 2017.

The lapse is inexcusable because the Proposed Affidavit and Written Submission were prepared well in advance by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, and discussed and finalized with joint secretary R.K. Singh and deputy commissioner D.S. Misra of the Ministry. An Application was sent for affirmation by Shri Sunil Mathews, Advocate. Despite this, the concerned officials made no move to submit the prepared Written Submission, Affidavit, and Application, which action lay within the sole purview of the Ministry as the Government of India cannot be party to a dispute between two private parties.

RSS think tank Swadeshi Jagran Manch called the development a major blow to India’s fight against seed monopolies. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 21, co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan urged that despite this setback, the Government of India should file the written submissions on questions of law, even if the Division Bench has begun to write the judgment during vacations in the absence of the government’s legal stand, because the judgement has not been delivered so far.

Essentially, the case involves a dispute over royalties of Bt Cotton seeds, between Monsanto Technology & others vs. Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd. & others.

This led to a situation in which every State fixed the cotton seed prices for its own State while Monsanto Technology fixed different ‘trait values’ for different States even as it challenged the said enactments by claiming patent rights.

BT Cotton Seed prices have been a contentious issue in India for over a decade and some State Governments and farmers associations had complained to the then existing MRTP Commission. Some State Governments enacted their own laws to regulate cotton seed prices and the ‘trait value’ to be levied. This led to a situation in which every State fixed the cotton seed prices for its own State while Monsanto Technology fixed different ‘trait values’ for different States even as it challenged the said enactments by claiming patent rights.

Given the adverse effects on Indian farmers, the Government of India intervened in their interest and promulgated the Cotton Seeds Price (Control) Order, 2015 [CSPCO] under the Essential Commodities Act, to fix the price of cotton seeds including ‘trait value’, which would be uniformly applicable across the country, and would also regulate the one sided monopolistic licenses agreements signed with Indian seeds companies, which were hurting Indian farmers economically.

The Union Ministry of Agriculture also filed a reference before the Competition Commission of India [CCI] against Monsanto and its subsidiaries for anti-competitive business practices. The CCI found a strong prima facie case of violation of Section 3 and 4 of the Competition Act and directed an investigation vide order dated 10 February 2016 against Monsanto and its subsidiary companies and the persons involved.

Simultaneously, Monsanto launched a spate of litigations by itself or through subsidiary companies before various forums, challenging the constitutional validity of Cotton Seeds Prices [Control] Order, 2015 in Writ Petition No.12069 of 2015 before the High Court of Delhi. Tushar Mehta and Sunil Mathews, advocate, appeared and filed a detailed reply on behalf of the Government of India.

Mehta came to the conclusion that while the Government of India does not have any locus standi in disputes between two private parties, there are several legal questions raised by both parties…

As the Delhi High Court did not give Monsanto any interim relief in the writ petition filed by its subsidiary company, a petition (Writ Petition No.15173) was filed before the High Court of Karnataka at Bangalore by an Association sponsored by Monsanto. Initially, the company secured an ex parte stay, which was later vacated by the High Court of Karnataka. The Government of India intervened and even the appeal filed by the said Association (Writ Appeal No.1125 and 1126 of 2016) was dismissed.

Monsanto and its subsidiary companies have also filed writ petitions against the investigation ordered by the CCI, which are pending before the Delhi High Court.

Sources said that when the Addl. Solicitor General learnt of the appeal before FAO(OS)(COMM.) No. 86 of 2017 filed by Nuziveedu Seeds & others, he studied the matter to ascertain whether any interpretation of law given by Delhi High Court in these proceedings could impact the legal stand of the Union of India in other pending litigations.

Mehta came to the conclusion that while the Government of India does not have any locus standi in disputes between two private parties, there are several legal questions raised by both parties which rest on an interpretation of the Indian Patent Act and Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001. Hence, any decision arrived at by the High Court on the interpretation of law and especially regarding interpretation of Section 3(j) of the Indian Patent Act (which says seeds and life forms cannot be patented) and the applicability of PPV&FR Act for transgenic plants, will directly impact pending matters in which the Union Government has taken or will have to take a specific stand on legal interpretation of various provisions being considered in FAO(OS)(COMM) No.86 of 2017.

Any view that the Court might take on the question of law on exclusions from Section 3(j) of Indian Patents Act will have nation-wide ramifications on agriculture, farmers and the entire population…

Accordingly, the Written Submission prepared for the Agriculture Ministry clearly stated that the law laid down in FAO(OS)(COMM) No. 86 of 2017 can be extended to other crops like rice, wheat, soybean, groundnut etc. and even animals like chicken, pig, sheep, goat etc., wherever a transgenic trait is introduced. Indeed, that is why it was so important that the Delhi High Court be informed of the Centre’s interpretation of the law.

Any view that the Court might take on the question of law on exclusions from Section 3(j) of Indian Patents Act will have nation-wide ramifications on agriculture, farmers and the entire population as their food security would be impacted by monopolies on seeds and plants. As India has nearly 600 million farmers and agriculture accounts for over 26 per cent of the nation’s capital GDP, the legal issue before the Court cannot and should not be decided without the stand of the Government of India being put on record regarding questions of law (and avoiding the dispute between private parties).

This failure to file submissions is probably the first major act of subversion of governmental objectives by officers of a Union Ministry. It remains to be seen what action the Centre takes against officials who have humiliated it before the High Court and risked the future of lakhs of Indian farmers and consumers. Their moral laxity and culpable negligence is self-evident.

Sandhya Jain
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16 COMMENTS

  1. I just want to quote what AI Gore recently said about GMOs

    Plus i want to mention what AI Gore reminded us o

    Q: Is there a lesser-known innovation to address climate change that you’re most excited about?

    A: Converting my farm in Tennessee to a carbon-sequestering farm without any insecticides or pesticides or GMOs. It’s a small farm and small effort, but I see a lot of my neighbours and a lot of farmers around the world beginning to switch to these techniques.

    http://time.com/4865979/al-gore-an-inconvenient-sequel/

  2. These seed giants has long term vision and huge mechanism to penetrates in the markets.
    Monsanto has disrespected the Seed act, 1966 and released more than 600 cotton varieties without going through due process of evaluation like other varieties are to be released in public sector.

    These seed giants are so much resourceful and powerful that they are now even bullying and challenging the Indian government and established rule of law. These seed giants do not respect the PPVFRA act and Indian patent laws anymore.

    There is continues efforts being made by these companies to dilute the the section 3(d and j) of Indian patent law which provide unique sui generic mechanism of seed patents and life forms in India.

    Most of politicians, law makers, policy formulators and bureaucrats are not connected with the Indian farming aspects and they view such developments only through economic perspective, and most of the agricultural scientists and people do not much familiar with such agendas and legal aspects. This fragmentation and ignorance, helped such giant seed corporations to divide and rule. They have almost hijacked all the mechanism from R&D to academia, policies to judiciary, farmers to markets.

    We still believe in the judiciary and aware citizens of India to save our farmers, agriculture and people from these seed demons.

    I think Vandana Shiva has huge knowledge about this aspect and how we can design a strategy to tame such terrible seed demons. Little i know whether she would assist or not to the cause. This is really going to be tough battle, very tough indeed.

    http://www.navdanya.org/news/573-monsanto-vs-indian-farmers

      • HUmmmmm this man is tied to Monsatan~ I find his comment paid for By monsanto~ people have been farming thousands of years without poisons maybe you sir should try it.. ASHISH KANWAL
        Technology Development Manager at Monsanto Company
        Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
        Farming
        Current
        Monsanto Company
        Education Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University, Banaskantha https://in.linkedin.com/in/ashish-kanwal-902531143

      • Even these seed companies do not know basic ABC of agriculture. These companies believe only technological interventions are the ultimate solution of problems of agriculture. very myopic my friend.

        Even people like you who are working for such giants are virtually helping MNCs to hijack the Indian farmers, agriculture and economies.

        Companies like your parent company are having so much power and resources that minds have been divided and ruled outrightly.
        Why seed giants are earning billions and farmers pennies and ultimately dying at the end. I believe in business strategies but we as a nation has been evolved out of concepts like Swaraj, trusteeship and plato optimatility etc.

        Even British ruled over India for centuries because our own people were helping and assisting them to rule over us.

      • For your knowledge and information:

        Former US vice president Al Gore, in a recent interview to TIME magazine –

        Ques: Is there a lesser-known innovation to address climate change that you’re most excited about?

        Ans: Converting my farm in Tennessee to a carbon-sequestering farm without any insecticides or pesticides or GMOs. It’s a small farm and a small effort, but I see a lot of my neighbors and a lot of farmers around the world beginning to switch to these techniques.

        Time magazine, 20 July 2017
        http://time.com/4865979/al-gore-an-inconvenient-sequel/

  3. The ‘title’ of this article too mild & does not adequately reflect the gravity of the situation.

    The title ‘Monsanto sway in Agriculture Ministry’ – is ‘inappropriate’ & ‘inadequate’ because our Agriculture Ministry has long back been ‘enslaved’ & ‘subjugated’ by Monsanto.

    The comment by ‘Right’ above is absolutely ‘right’. MODI GOVERNMENT & MODI ARE AS CORRUPT & DIABOLIC AS ANY PREVIOUS GOVT OR PM.

    Any Govt or Prime Minister that does not ‘kick out’ devilish MNCs like Monsanto is TOTALLY CORRUPT.

    Any Govt or Prime Minster that does not ban CHEMICAL FARMING & revive our vedic COW BASED ZERO BUDGET NATURAL FARMING is an agent of ‘Fertilizer Mafia’ & ‘Meat Mafia’.

    If only an Honest Indian Govt (I have never seen one after the demise of Morarjibhai) stringently bans GMOs & CHEMICAL FARMING, I can challenge anybody within a decade India will become the ECONOMIC SUPER POWER.

    It is not that Modi is unaware of the perils of GMOs & CHEMICAL FARMING – the ‘transcendence’, the ‘supremacy’ & the ‘merits’ of COW BASED FARMING. But he is unable to resist the ‘MNC lobbying’, pressures from ‘meat & fertilizer lobies’ obviously because of their huge funding for the Party & campaigns.

    The matter does not rest or end with Bt Cotton. Very soon other GMOs in vegetables, cereals, pulses, oil seeds will become a reality with a friendly & corrupt Govt at the service of Monsanto.

    That Prakash Javadekar, Radha Mohan Singh, Pawars, Manmohan, Modi are agents of Monsanto is beyond question.

    The very fact Modi is hobnobbing with criminal traitors like M.S. Swaminathan is evidence enough he is an agent of Monsanto & depends heavily on them for huge funds needed to run the party & conduct campaigns.

    A majority of the bureaucrats & almost the entire Agriculture Scientists are in the payroll of Monsanto, DOW, DuPont, Syngenta & Carr gill

    • I think no government can kick out these companies out due to open market and integrated infrastructure. Your pain is quite valid and there is not much doubt that some of politicians and even this govt has acting for the interests for the companies like monsanto.

      Even there is not any subject or curricula in the agricultural universities which teach the history of Indian agriculture, natural farming system, importance of traditional knowledge base system, ecological farming system etc.

      I think we can not kick out these seed companies directly, we need to influence the govt and agriculture institutions to start teaching our indigenous agricultural systems, new innovations invented by farmers. We need to appreciate the knowledge system of our age-old farmers and their ingenuity. So, by promoting such strategies can help us to fight such companies. Only making people, farmers, scientists and agricultural graduates aware about our culture, age old farming system can help us. Now, there is only one-sided information controlled and processed by these companies are being taught and injected among scientist and students in agricultural institutions. So, finally these agricultural scientists and students are acting for the interests for such companies rather for Indian farmers or nation.

      So, virtually most of agricultural institutions are breeding HR professional for these companies rather for nation. There is hidden agendas to fight people against each other, and in this complex system ultimate beneficiaries are these companies only.

  4. I feel It is worth a while asking Dr Nair and the young brilliant student ( i am unable to remember his name) to draft a modification and amendment to the data filed by the ministry and ensure that it is submitted as an amendment to the original reply .The hon court can surely be humbly requested to grant a special leave to this add on.
    My knowledge of the law is limited but certainly there are experts both in Hindu jagran mach and R.SS to support this action.

    • The reply on behalf of the Ministry was prepared by Additional Solicitor General of India, discussed with the officials mentioned, and handed over completely with all supporting affidavits etc.

      Officials were supposed to deposit it before the Court before June 5. They deliberately did not do so.

      The suggestion is clear that extraneous factors were behind the malpractice

  5. Madam, the negative effects of GMOs are not clear. It is not sure that GMOs are safe. What is govt’s stand on that. Are GMOs allowed in our country? These are banned in many countries. Govt must prioritize public health first.

    • Dear Rishabh
      The effects of GMO are well known. The recent case in California where they were declared as CARCINOGENIC is based upon the petitioners discovering evidence of Monsanto knowing that the product was carcinogenic for decades, suppressing the evidence, and continuing sales.

      You can find a lot on Google and environmental websites.

  6. This Modi govt is as corrupt as any previous govt.
    It tom-toms about there being no corruption nor scam yet in its govt even as it outrightly capitulates before foreigners . First it was waiving off of advance ruling tribunal upheld tax liability of USD 6.5 billion of foreigners in 2015, and now such contrived moves like approving GMO mustard seeds in India . When the Indian public comes to know of this breach of trust by this man who just is confident bluff master – Modi may not even get time to regret and repent.

    • I do not know how you come to this conclusion. The Solicitor General acts for Government of India, and he was alert to its interests and did the intellectual part of the exercise.

      The malfeasance is on the part of the Ministry officials.

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