Dr. Vandana Shiva, a world-renowned advocate for seed freedom and opponent of GMO’s, explains why the Indian Court’s rejection of Monsanto’s climate resilient plant patent is so important to seed freedom:
Monsanto tried to create an irrelevant and false opposition of natural production of plants versus production based on human intervention. This is false because farmers’ breeding and conventional breeding also involves substantial human intervention. The patent office and the appellate board correctly rejected this argument, and stressed Monsanto’s application was not an invention but based on many generic steps that are essentially biological, taken in sequence, still essentially biological. This decision will have far reaching impact on India’s biodiversity, farmers rights and food security. Monsanto’s patent application was for climate resilient traits of cold tolerance, salt tolerance and drought tolerance that our farmers have evolved over millennia, through applying their knowledge of breeding. Climate resilient traits will become increasingly important in times of climate instability. Along coastal areas, farmers have evolved flood tolerant and salt tolerant varieties of rice such as “Bhundi”, “Kalambank”, “Lunabakada”, “Sankarchin”, “Nalidhulia”, “Ravana”,”Seulapuni”,”Dhosarakhuda”. Crops such as millets have been evolved for drought tolerance, and provide food security in water scare regions, and water scarce years. Corporations like Monsanto have take 1500 patents on Climate Resilient crops. Navdanya/Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, have published the list in its report, “Biopiracy of Climate Resilient Crops: Gene Giants Steal Farmers Innovation”. With these very broad patents, corporations like Monsanto can prevent access to climate resilient seeds after climate disasters, because a patent is an exclusive right to produce, distribute, sell the patented product. After the Orissa super-cyclone, Navdanya was able to distribute salt tolerant rices to farmers because we had conserved them as a commons in our community seed bank run by Kusum Mishra and Dr Ashok Panigrahi in Balasore Orissa. We could then donate 2 truckloads of salt tolerant seeds to the farmers who could not grow rice because of the sea salt deposited on their farms. We are now preparing to distribute cold tolerant, drought tolerant seeds to the victims of the Climate disaster in Uttarakhand. We need to protect our seed freedom, seed sovereignty and biodiversity which is undermined by patents on seeds. That is why Navdanya has started the Seed Freedom Movement (www.navdanya.org ) (www.seedfreedom.in). We applaud the decision of the Patent Office and Appellate Board and will disseminate it world wide so that other countries can use it to protect farmers, biodiversity and seed sovereignty. We will also be ready to intervene should Monsanto bring the case to the Supreme Court.