SpicyIP Tidbit: The Woes of the Grassroot Innovator in the Agricultural Sector

The Indian public discourse over innovation and intellectual property laws has often ignored the issues arising in the agricultural sector – a sector which affects more than 50% of the Indian population. Luckily for us Hindu’s award winning correspondent – M.J.Prabhu carries a weekly column – Farmer’s Notebook – which does cover grassroot level innovation affecting farmers. In fact his coverage has been so good that he’s been given an award for it by the National Innovation Foundation.

Picture from here.

In his last column Prabhu has touched on a very interesting topic – the indifference of Indian scientists and academia towards the innovations made by Jai Prakash Singh in the field of agriculture. Jai Prakash Singh who started off by focussing on developing higher yielding varities of wheat and paddy has developed an expertise in being able to identify those strains which are not only high-yielding but are also pest-resistant. He has since developed other strains of several other plants.

The column quotes Singh as saying “Our innovations could help inform scientific research, if only scientists take time to invest proper resources into exploring them. But sadly, neither the scientists nor the Government respond as enthusiastically as they should, because they are often sceptical about the value of traditional knowledge,”

The reason for this lack of research on TK, as explained by the column, is “because peer pressure often forces scientists to focus on high-impact research with wide visibility, and even students shy away from work that does not guarantee them a successful career.” The challenge therefore is to incentivize the process for scientists and students at agricultural universities.

In an earlier column of his Prabhu documents the story of Dadaji Ramaji Khobragade who developed some highly successful strains of paddy. Unfortunately for this innovator several local companies commercialized his innovations without sharing the benfits with him. The column quotes the innovator as stating that“The benefits of my research were usurped by private seed companies who made money allegedly with the help of some scientists working in an agricultural university,”

Theoretically speaking India has all the laws in place to protect such innovations, especially the Plant Varieties Protection Act. In reality however it is a moot question as to whether small farmers will have access to the infrastructure required to protect their innovations.

It is rather ironic that there is such scant attention paid towards Traditional Knowledge in a country which is whipped into a murderous patriotic fervour everytime basmati or neem or turmeric are in the danger of being patented in the E.U. or the U.S..


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2 thoughts on “SpicyIP Tidbit: The Woes of the Grassroot Innovator in the Agricultural Sector”

  1. A lot has been discussed about the hypothecation of traditional knowledge/ innovations at grassroot levels in India. Still the losses continue to stand at a massive rate. Why not a NGO be constituted for the purpose of protection of TKs??? Why not the board campaign and reach out to the agricultarists and the like and educate them of the protection of TKs ?? Why not there be bodies set up at every possible agricultural zone where people interested can report and take measures to protect the TK s ?The losses in TK s are primarily because of non awareness amongst the agriculturists and the like AND the lack of volunteers to lend them a helping hand. And all this needs combined effort of the people who have the fervour to serve the society .. for the cause of public interest– INTEREST OF THE COUNTRY. Together we can do. I wish it becomes possible through Spicy IP.

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