the world's largest genetically modified seed company, has been
awarded patents on the wheat used for making chapati
-- the flat bread staple of northern India.
give the US multinational exclusive ownership over Nap Hal,
a strain of wheat whose gene sequence makes it particularly
suited to producing crisp breads.
patent, filed in Europe, gives Monsanto rights over the use
of Nap Hal wheat to make chapatis, which consist of
flour, water and salt.
say Nap Hal's qualities are the result of generations of farmers
in India who spent years crossbreeding crops and collective,
not corporate, efforts should be recognised.
activists claim, is simply out to make "monopoly profits"
from food on which millions depend. Monsanto inherited a patent
application when it bought the cereals division of the Anglo-Dutch
food giant Unilever in 1998, and the patent has been granted
to the new owner.
acquired Nap Hal seeds from a publicly funded British plant
gene bank. Its scientists identified the wheat's combination
of genes and patented them as an "invention".
is attempting to block Monsanto's patent, accusing the company
is theft of the results of the work in cultivation made by Indian
farmers," said Dr Christoph Then, Greenpeace's patent expert
after a meeting with the European Commission in Delhi.
want the European Patent Office to reverse its decision. Under
European law patents cannot be issued on plants that are normally
cultivated, but there are loopholes in the legislation."
for Monsanto in India denied that the company had any plan to
exploit the patent, saying that it was in fact pulling out of
cereals in some markets.
patent was Unilever's. We got it when we bought the company.
Really this is all academic as we are exiting from the cereal
business in the UK and Europe," said Ranjana Smetacek,
Monsanto's public affairs director in India.
in India say that there are concerns that people might end up
paying royalties to Monsanto for making or selling chapatis.
commercial interest is that Monsanto can charge people for using
the wheat or take a cut from its sale," said Devinder Sharma,
who runs the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security in Delhi.
market in developing countries is huge. Rice production in India
alone exceeds that of the American maize market.
of patents relating to rice issued every year in the US has
risen from less than 100 in the mid-1990s to more than 600 in
says there is little hope of the Indian government intervening
to prevent the chapati being patented by Monsanto.
simply cannot afford the legal fees, having spent hundreds of
thousands of dollars fighting a US decision to grant a Texan
company a patent on basmati rice in 1997.
became a cause celebre for the anti-globalisation protests of
the 1990s, and was only settled when the patent was watered
ministry of commerce sent a circular out last year which said
that there is no money to fund these cases any more," said
article was published in The Guardian