Plant Variety Protection

Beejasurs of the Indian seed market


A news item in the Economic Times (click here) is all praise for Mahyco, an “an Indian seeds company” for registering two varieties of genetically modified wheat. The seed varieties were registered under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer’s Rights Act (Click here for a detailed exposition on the Act).
The article observes that the entry of Indian players into the market will create competition in a market that is dominated by multinational companies. The multinational companies dominate the 6000 crore market for seeds in India.

The article underscored the need for domestic seed companies to begin registering seed varieties for common vegetables soon. The vegetable seed market is more profitable in comparison to the field crop sector as farmers do not usually save seeds for the next crop. The article notes the presence of over 500 private sector players in the seed industry and research being neglected prior to the entry of multinational players.

Is Mahyco a purely domestic company?

Mahyco-Monsanto joint venture is still fresh in public memory owing to the infamous disaster caused by the failure of Bt Cotton crops in Andhra Pradesh (click for a detailed article and post on the same). The joint venture was formed for the marketing of Bt Cotton hybrid seeds. The formation of the joint venture was followed by the acquisition of a 26 percent stake in Mahyco by Monsanto at a cost of Rs.182 crore in April 1998 (click here for the news item).

The domination of multinational companies thus continues.

Image from here.

2 comments.

  1. AvatarFunckle

    Bear with me, if i have failed to get the point but, how does Mahyco being an Indian company or a foreign owned subsidiary make a difference?
    Jingoism apart, if the ultimate aim is to reduce the price of seeds, that would result from free competition which is exactly what Intellectual Property Rights at one level ends up curtailing. The price is going to be the result of market forces unless a monopoly is created like in the instant case by the protection under PVPA. Nonetheless, it still creates scope for competition among similar hybrid variety seeds but at the end of the day what we should realise is that these seeds are products which the manufacturers claim have certain properties.( pest resistance, increased yeild etc.) Subsequent to the grant of the patent all what we can be concerned about is whether these products meet the qualities that earned them the patent – if not the farmers who suffered as a result should be compensated – it doesn’t matter whether the company is Indian or not.

    P.S- who is Beejasur? I remember the statue in Mysore but I couldn’t place him in the realm of Indian Mythology.

    Reply
  2. Avatarprakruthip

    Thank you for yor comment.

    The post is attempting to correct a mistaken assumption in the Economic Times article which portrays the registration of 2 seed varieties by Mahyco as a foray made by an Indian company. The article tries to herald this as the achievement of an Indian company signalling the end of the domination of multinational companies in the Indian seed market.

    The post attempts to point out that this is defintely not the case as Mahyco has previously collaborated with Monsanto and that Monsanto also owns a 26% stake in the “Indian” company.

    I completely agree with your point that it really does not make any difference whether it is an Indian company or not. Compensating the farmers when the seeds do not meet the requirements of the patent (on the basis of which a monpoly has been granted) is definately the most important issue at hand.

    Now for some tidbits on mythology,
    Raktabeejasur is a demon who was almost invincible. Every drop of blood of his that fell on earth led to the birth of more raktabeejasurs. I could not find his picture, which is why I used Mahishasura’s picture. Beejasur was fianlly slayed by Kali, who puts her tongue on the earth or something on those lines.

    Reply

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