M A I N   N E W S

A Tribune exclusive
Protecting indigenous varieties, breeds
Management portfolio on cards
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 21
After holding brainstorming sessions for three days, scientists of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have set on the course of preparing the intellectual property rights management portfolio of all crops, livestock, aquatic animals and plants and microbes and processes to prevent their plundering at the international level.

While preparing the portfolio, all such varieties and breeds will be got registered at the national and international levels.

There are thousands of varieties of various crops, horticulture plants, forest trees and breeds of livestock, aquatic animals, etc.

Obviously, it is a gigantic task requiring huge investment but as multinational seed companies have entered Indian agriculture and allied sectors, the preparation of such a portfolio has become a must to protect the indigenous varieties and breeds and also for their sale in the international market, says Dr J.S.Samra,Deputy Director- General of the ICAR. " If we do not have what is technically called the passport of any Indian variety or breed, we cannot claim that as ours", says Dr Samra.

Further explaining the point, Dr Samra told The Tribune that for instance if any Indian agricultural university came out with a new variety of wheat and another country claimed it, problems would arise."To prove that it is ours, we need to have a full record of the evolvement of the variety, its parental line, DNA fingerprints and the processes through which that evolved", said Dr Samra. Every variety and breed would have to be got registered by preparing an intellectual property rights management portfolio , he added.

"If we have the portfolio and proper registration of any variety or breed, only then can we get royalty on it from the countries to which it is to be supplied in the international market. A multinational company selling Bt cotton seed to Indian farmers was getting about Rs 800 as royalty on a packet of 450 gm of seed because it got that variety registered claiming intellectual property rights over it", he said.

India has been exporting murrah buffaloes to certain African counties. " If we do not have the fingerprints of the parental line of such buffaloes,we cannot claim them as ours", said Dr Samra. Because of the enforcing of the World Trade Organisation agreement, there would be extensive import and export of various varieties and breeds in the country. And without registration, such a task would be impossible.

The Indian Government had to fight a tough battle to claim that basmati has its origin in the Indian subcontinent. Now the Indian and Pakistani authorities concerned have decided to jointly get their variety registered to claim intellectual property rights over it at the international level. Besides, the traceability clause has become an important factor for the export of any agricultural or other product. "For example, if one supplies kinnow to Dubai, one is required to trace the farm from which it was availed of in India for export to the accepting firm", said Dr Samra.

Dr Samra said that the issue of portfolio was also discussed at the meeting of the board of Punjab Agricultural University yesterday. When asked from where the money would come for such a gigantic task, Dr Samra said the Union Government had been approached for this purpose. Moreover, as private Indian companies were entering the agricultural arena, they would also be asked to contribute funds for using the knowhow of Indian agricultural universities.

He said the Union and state governments should have a system to allow private companies to use the knowledge of Indian universities. After all, private companies would be earning huge profits from the varieties and breeds developed by Indian scientists.





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