Biopiracy a Sensitive Issue in India.

Agri-giant Monsanto may be forced to take one on the chin in India: The nation’s first genetically modified food crop, a variety of eggplant known at Bt brinjal, has sucked its Big Ag developers into court. Monsanto, Mahyco, and “collaborators” have been accused of biopiracy by the National Biodiversity Authority of India.

NBA says the developers of Bt brinjal (the introduction of which was halted in 2010 by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh on the grounds that more tests were needed to prove its safety) used local varieties of eggplant in developing the GM crop “without prior approval of the competent authorities.”

The issue of biopiracy is a big one in India and stems back many years. In the past various multinational corporations have tried patenting products that were just packaged versions of traditional medicinal remedies used for generations. Neem and turmeric were often targets.

In 2009, India passed a law deem all traditional medicinal herbs (as well as yoga postures) as being part of the nation’s cultural heritage and therefore “public property”, prohibiting anyone patenting them. It did not prohibit people from making money off them, only trying to claim exclusivity over them.

In 2010, Colgate was accused of biopiracy for attempting to patent a toothpaste formula that was essentially a traditional Ayurvedic recipe.

(GM Watch)