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SYNGENTA FOILED - Victory or Temporary Lull in Hostilities?

Support the Indian SEED SATYAGRAHA

Also see Article in Indian Financial Express 23 Dec 2002

Syngenta's foiled attempt to privatise a valuable collection is perhaps but one in a long line of what can be expected as the International Seed Treaty (IT PGRFA) gets nearer to coming into force. More...

Links to World Food Summit: five years later resources

Links to International Seed Treaty resources

SYNGENTA FOILED - Victory or Temporary Lull in Hostilities?

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Patrick Mulvany


Dear AgBioIndia

Thanks for your consistently high quality information. The news of this victory over Syngenta's biopiracy is welcome, but we must all remain on-guard - the International Seed Treaty is threatened!

SYNGENTA FOILED - Victory or Temporary Lull in Hostilities?


Syngenta's foiled attempt to privatise a valuable collection is perhaps but one in a long line of what can be expected as the International Seed Treaty (IT PGRFA) gets nearer to coming into force.

Not just National Collections but also CGIAR genebanks will come under increasing pressure from MNCs, in the next year or two, to exchange the genetic resources in genebanks under public and CGIAR control for traitorous pieces of silver.

Genebank managers have no right nor permission to sell these genetic resources. They are not their "property" - they have been given by farmers to scientists and other collectors in good faith that they will be held in trust for the benefit of humankind - not a private entity.

The Treaty still has ambiguities in its agreed text that will only be resolved once the Governing Body is formed after it comes into force. These ambiguities include whether or not Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) can be taken out on the genetic resources in the 'Multi-Lateral System' (MLS) i.e. those 35 genera of food crops, including rice, wheat, maize and potatoes, and 29 forages covered by the MLS in its Annex 1.

Article 12.3(d) states: "Recipients shall not claim any intellectual property or other rights that limit the facilitated access to the plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, or their genetic parts or components, in the form received from the Multilateral System;".

As "Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture" (PGRFA) are defined in the Treaty's Article 2 as "any genetic material of plant origin of actual or potential value for food and agriculture", it should be quite clear that IPRs are NOT allowed on these genetic resources.

However, the eminent Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, set up by the UK government, has already jumped the gun and has interpreted Article 12.3(d) as meaning that patents can be taken out on genes derived from the seeds kept under the rules of the MLS.

"The crucial words "in the form received" mean that material received cannot be patented as such, but they do allow patents to be taken out on modifications (however defined) to that material." (CIPR report Ch 3)

This cannot pre-empt the Governing Body's ruling but is a naked attempt to influence it. Maybe this is why the US has now signed the Treaty and may even ratify it so that they can ensure the Governing Body rules in favour of this privatisation interpretation. And if, for Syngenta, their support to the Treaty is a way of getting free access to genes that they can then privatise, this undermines the very basis of the Treaty - to ensure the free-flow of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. The Governing Body needs to be alert that the UK interpretation of Article 12.3(d) is not acceptable.

But there is worse. The Treaty's MLS only covers those collections "that are under the management and control of the Contracting Parties and in the public domain." (Article 11.2).

It goes on to commit Parties "to take appropriate measures to encourage natural and legal persons within their jurisdiction who hold plant genetic resources for food and agriculture listed in Annex I [the 35 crop genera and 29 forages] to include such plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in the Multilateral System." (Article 11.3).

It continues to commit Parties to a review after 2 years to see if these 'natural and legal persons' have complied and if not, to consider preventing them from having further access to the MLS in future.

So, if you were an inveterate biopirate, what would you do? In the year or two before the likely coming into force of the Treaty, you would attempt to gain control of as many genebanks as possible, taking them out of the public domain. You would then be able to continue privatising genes to your heart's content. And if you did not then put these collections back into the MLS and the Governing Body shut you out from further access, who cares; you would already have most of the resources under your control. Bingo!

Therefore, we must all be very vigilant that there is no further privatisation of any genebanks or other genetic resources currently in the public domain and in the CGIAR collections, as ratifications of the Treaty proceed. Once it comes into force, the Governing Body can then rule that the material in the MLS is safe from privatisation and all can have access to it, in perpetuity.

But remember, the Treaty is not just about protecting genes from privatisation, which it needs to be much clearer about, it is also about the conservation and sustainable use, especially in situ and on-farm, of all PGRFA, not just those in the MLS. It is about facilitating access to and sharing of information about PGRFA. It is about increasing funding to support farmers' efforts at developing and conserving these vital resources. And it is about recognising and implementing Farmers' Rights, for, without such Rights, why should farmers bother to provide these services to humankind?

Congratulations, therefore, to the activists in India who have kept Syngenta at bay. But do not drop your guard - there will be many more attempts at forced privatisation, patently sweetened by financial bribes and promised royalties, in the days before the Treaty comes into force.

In solidarity with the SEED SATYAGRAHA

I remain

Yours faithfully

Patrick Mulvany

Food Security Policy Adviser

ITDG, (Intermediate Technology Development Group)

Schumacher Centre, Bourton, RUGBY, CV23 9QZ, UK


From AgBioIndia < >

Subject: India: Syngenta forced to withdraw

Syngenta has been forced to withdraw from the controversial takeover of rice germplasm painstakingly collected and preserved by the legendary agricultural scientist, Dr R. H. Richharia, in the 1970s. Syngenta obviously is upset and therefore finds it convenient to blame the activists and environmentalists for 'misleading and false accusations'. At the same time, Syngenta has reposed faith in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which "aims to facilitate access to genetic resources and benefit sharing".

Strange that a company, which is not willing to make the rice genome database freely available should express 'faith' in the Treaty on PGRFA. It finds the International Treaty the right medium to get access to the plant genetic resources but refuses to provide access to the rice genome that it has mapped. So much so for the MNC's double standards!

It was a directive from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) that forced the Indira Gandhi Agricultural University, in Raipur, to pull out of the controversial research collaboration. But the ICAR has still to initiate exemplary punitive action against the vice-chancellor of the university as well as the seed multinational. By refusing to do so, ICAR is only allowing the MNC to walk away without being hauled up for biopiracy.


1. Syngenta pulls out of research collaboration with IGAU -- PTI

2. Meanwhile, 'seed satyagraha' continues against Syngenta's biopiracy

3. Backgrounder: Rice varieties -- by Meena Menon


1. Syngenta pulls out of research collaboration with IGAU

New Delhi, Dec 10 (PTI) -- Stung by criticism, the seed giant Syngenta India Limited has pulled out of the controversial research collaboration with the Indira Gandhi Agricultural University (IGAU) in Raipur, a company official said today.

Pawan Malik, president of seeds division of Syngenta said the discussions with IGAU were inconclusive and the proposal has been dropped.

"We are very disappointed to see the misleading and false accusations that were made (against the collaboration)," he said. The collaboration would have given the company commercial rights to over 19,000 strains of local rice cultivars held by the university.

The rice varieties had been painstakingly gathered by the agricultural scientist R H Richharia in the 1970s. In exchange, IGAU would have received an undisclosed amount of money and royalties from Syngenta.

Environmentalists and some scientists opposed the deal on the ground that Richharia's collection is a national wealth and not private property of the university and that opening the database to a multinational company is a "sellout".

Malik said, in a statement, his company and the university were looking at a collaboration to work together to develop new rice hybrids that meet specific farmers' needs in that part of the country. "We have collaborative research agreements with over 100 organizations and universities in different parts of the world," he said.

Though its deal with IGAU has fizzled out, Syngenta is already working in collaboration with many institutions in India including the Vasantdada Sugar Institute, Pune, G B Pant Institute of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar and the Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, Dapoli.

Malik pointed out that rice is one of the crops covered under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture which "aims to facilitate access to genetic resources and benefit sharing".

He said Syngenta was committed to comply with the principles of this treaty but it was too bad the deal with IGAU did not work out.



2. Meanwhile, 'seed styagrah' continues against Syngenta's biopiracy

Raipur, Dec 10: Workers, peasants, women and youth all over Chhattisgarh under the leadership of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha started a SEED SATYAGRAHA to protect their sovereignty for survival and sustenance of human community and to re-assert their rights over the rare varieties of rice seeds by courting arrests in large numbers. They are protesting against the decision taken by the Vice-Chancellor of Indira Gandhi Agriculture University, Raipur to sell the 22,972 varieties of paddy germplasm, collected by the great scientists, Dr. Richharia, which is in their custody to Syngenta. They also submitted a memorandum containing their 7-point demand. The programme was organized at block levels where the villagers from neighboring areas had gathered. From 11th onwards the action programme will be organized at village level. The following is a brief report of action programmes that took place in various parts of Chhattisgarh today:

*In Basna more than 2,000 workers, peasants, women and youth had gathered and 1,200 courted arrest.

*In Kasdol more than 500 people came for the dharna and 200 of them courted arrest.

*In Saraipalli more than 1,000 people came and 489 of them courted arrest

*In Pithora more than 600 people had gathered for the dharna and 120 of them courted arrest.

Later all those arrested were released unconditionally. In Raipur more than 200 Child Labourers and Women had gathered and staged a dharna at Motibagh. They shouted slogans, sang revolutionary songs and also distributed pamphlets.

The SEED SATYAGRAHA which started on 10th December 2002 (World Human Rights Day) will continue till 19th December 2002 Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Diwas (a tribal peasant martyr who was hanged to death by the British Empire on 19th December in 1857).

Various People's Organization under the leadership of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (CMM) like Chhattisgarh Kisan Panchayat, Chhattisgarh Mahilla Jagriti Sangathan, Chhattisgarh Bal Shramik Sangathan, INSAF (Indian Social Action Forum) - Chhattisgarh Unit, Sabla Dal (an Independent trade union of women domestic servants), EKTA PARISHAD, Chhattisgarh Labour Institute etc. are part of the SEED SATYAGRAHA.

At the state level the BJP is opposing the sale of the paddy germplasm but at the Centre its their government who is hobnobbing with the MNCs and making policies that are aimed at selling of all the traditional knowledge and resources. Their protest is more aimed at gaining political mileage and nothing else. The Congress Government under the leadership of Chief Minister Mr. Ajit Jogi have neither made any comment nor taken any action to stop the robbery even though it directly comes under their jurisdiction thus giving a clear indication of their line of thought. The state Congress is divided on the issue. Senior Congress Leader and Ex-Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Shayama Charan Shukla has issued a statement saying that the whole deal is betrayal with the farmers of Chhattisgarh and it should be stopped.

[This report was filed by Akshay on behalf of the 'Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha']




3.Rice varieties

By Meena Menon

Raipur: In a small, musty room men and women sort small piles of paddy and put them into long brown envelopes. Each rice grain is carefully examined before it is sorted out. Under the National Agricultural Technology project(NATP), on farm samples are being collected, which is what is being sorted out.

Banners in the room in Hindi proclaim that the rice varieties of Chhattisgarh, have enough capacity in them to satisfy the rice demands of the entire nation. In an adjacent room, green steel cupboards with small draws house a veritable treasure of rice germplasm, collected by the late Dr R H Richharia, a former director of the Central Rice Research Institute(CRRI), Cuttack, India and one of the foremost rice scientists of the country.

Much of Dr Richharia's work seems to have been forgotten but the germplasm bank is what he is most remembered for, apart from his controversial tenure as director at CRRI as well as the Madhya Pradesh Rice Research Institute(MPRRI). He was removed from the CRRI as he opposed the dwarf varieties which were being brought into the country in 1966 as he felt they were highly susceptible to pests.

There are 22,500 accessions of rice at the rice germplasm bank at the Indira Gandhi Agricultural University(IGAU), near Raipur and a majority of them are from Madhya Pradesh itself. Chhattisgarh, now an independent state, was called then rice bowl of Madhya Pradesh. Rice is grown over more than 70 per cent of the area but irrigation is less than 20 per cent and productivity is low. Every third year is a drought year and rainfall is erratic, according to scientists at IGAU.

One of Dr Richharia's many books talks about the rich diversity in rice in Madhya Pradesh. He speaks of a variety called Chikko in the tribal area of Bastar which is preferred because it can be ground into soft flour which can be rolled out to make chappatis. Another variety called khowa was popular because it tasted like milk after it was boiled. There are super long varieties which are popular for making puffed rice and bold varieties which are used to make flattened rice(poha). Many varieties are high yielding and resistant to pests, he noted in his research. The IGAU collection also has 210 varieties of wild rice.

According to G R Sahu, technical assistant, germplasm bank who has looked after the collection since 1982, said earlier the collection was maintained at Baronda farm near Raipur where block level registers were maintained. All samples had been characterised for morphological and some for agronomical characteristics, he said. Now the rice varieties are arranged alphabetically. Dr Richharia's collection was called the Raipur collection and is the second largest collection in the world. It is the biggest collection in India. There are nearly 70,000 accessions of rice cultivars and hundreds of accessions of wild rice in India.

The Raipur collection was the centre of a storm after it was alleged that the International Rice Research Institute(IRRI) at Philippines took away samples of these varieties. Dr R S Tripathi, director, research, IGAU, did not wish to comment on this issue. However at a conference in Malaysia in 1986, Dr Richharia in a paper said pressure was brought about by the World Bank to close the activities of this Institute (MPRRI) in lieu of offering a substantial financial assistance as I had refused to pass on the entire rice germplasm to IRRI without studying it."

At present IRRI has more than 80,000 accessions of cultivated rice and 3000 accessions of wild species. In recent years, in India, the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources(NBPGR) deposited nearly 42,000 germplasm accessions in the National Gene Bank.

Every year since 1971, all the accessions at IGAU are grown on a small plot of land measuring seven acres in the University and their seeds are sorted, packed and stored. A catalogue of the accessions is under preparation but not yet finalised, according to Dr N K Motiramani, senior scientist, in charge of the germplasm bank.

Dr Motiramani shows off the small boards hanging on the walls of the sorting room where rice varieties are on display. There is Jag Phool which with a 4 mm long grain, is the smallest variety of rice and Dokra Dokri with its long grain measuring 14 mm which is the longest rice grain.

There are varieties of rice which have two grains in one floret or Hathi Panjara (literally elephant's leg) which is the boldest grain. There are a variety of scented rice and medicinal rice varieties which were once popular in the area of Chhattisgarh. There are special rice types like Tulsi Manjari from, Bihar, which are used to make kheer( a desert made of rice and milk) and some are eaten to relieve joint pains or headaches. Madhya Pradesh had the largest number of scented rice varieties which are also high yielding.

The original samples collected under the supervision of Dr Richharia ,over thirty years ago cannot germinate now but they are kept to tally the samples which are grown every year. Since August last year, about 5000 accessions are kept in a medium term cold storage module outside the department of Plant breeding at IGAU at temperatures of 4 degrees C. Here the germplasm is safe and remain viable for five to ten years, Dr Motiramani said.

"Every year, we will add 5000 accessions to the cold storage," Dr Motiramani said and after five years, the first batch will be taken to the field for germination. "In this way we don't have to grow all the accessions every year as we are presently doing."

Earlier the germplasm was stored in a room inaugurated by Dr Richharia in 1993 which had two airconditioners and a dehumidifier. However, frequent power fluctuations put paid to this plan.

However, the question is whether farmers can access this rich store of germplasm and grow indigenous varieties in areas which are swamped by high yielding varieties released by the University itself. According to Dr Motiramani, farmers do access varieties but the University has to be very careful while releasing seeds to farmers. They mostly come in for scented varieties, he added. "The access to farmers is not so free now as they have to sign an agreement with us that they will use it for themselves and no commercial advantage will be taken," he said.

The collection of local rice varieties from different areas of Madhya Pradesh was initiated by Dr Richharia in 1971. Between 1971 to 1976, a total of 19,095 accessions were made under the aegis of the Madhya Pradesh Rice Research Institute(MPRRI), according to a Status Report of the IGAU, 2000.

The varieties have been evaluated for resistance against various biotic stresses, particularly against bacterial blight, gall midge and brown plant hopper, all pests which affect the rice plant. Many of the varieties are resistant against gall midge and brown plant hopper and are being used as parents in rice variety crossing programmes.

However, activists working in the field of biodiversity conservation feel that using germplasm for genetic research or for preservation as museum pieces will deny its access to farmers. Women associated with the Deccan Development Society at Zaheerabad in Andhra Pradsh have been collecting seeds and believe in in situ conservation. Now Dalit women like Anjamma give seeds to people in her village which has enhanced her status socially and economically.

Activists feel there is no point making museum out of seeds they have to be made available to farmers. Debal Deb, an ecologist with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Kolkata, also has helped set up a seed bank for indigenous rice varieties and now almost 500 farmers have converted to using these varieties because of seed availability.

Before 1970, about 5600 varieties of rice flourished in Bengal but now some 500 may be left. He has documented 340 varieties in a book. In 1998, he established Vrihi which is the name in the Atharva Ved for rice, to facilitate a free exchange of local crop varieties among farmers. The seed bank is not an expensive air-- conditioned facility but relies on the use of natural materials to store seeds for which remain viable for at least five years.

Now it is doubtful how many farmers know of these varieties and even if they do, can they grow them. In the name of increasing production, agriculture has gone the way of international dictates and research and it will be an uphill task to reclaim what will otherwise be lost forever.

[This article first appeared in Business Line, July 2, 2001. Meena Menon can be contacted at:]

Additional reading:

"Syngenta caught in the act",

AgBioIndia, 2 December 2002


AgBioIndia Mailing List


02 December 2002

Subject: Syngenta caught in the act

The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), the umbrella organisation for public sector agricultural research in the country, has taken serious note of the reported collaborative research project between the seed giant Syngenta Corporation and the Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidalaya (IGKV) at Raipur, in Chhatisgarh, in central India, which would have entailed transfer of rice germplasm to the private company.

The rice germplasm in question, comprises the 19,095 strains of local rice cultivars, painstakingly collected by the legendary agricultural scientist, the late Dr R.H.Richharia. The collections were earlier the subject of a hot debate in the country when it was reported that the germplasm had been transferred to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the early 1980s. It was later found that the germplasm collections had in fact been transferred and have further been passed on to the USDA collections at Fort Collins. The USDA collections are outside the purview of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which had for the first time treated plant germplasm as a national sovereign property.

The ICAR has sought a detailed clarification from the agricultural university and at the same time made it categorical clear that such a transfer of genetic resources 'cannot be allowed' at any cost. This goes against various provisions for the protection of plant genetic resources under the national laws. However, the ICAR is unwilling to launch criminal proceedings against the university vice-chancellor for permitting biopiracy under a legalised frame-work.

Syngenta had earlier gone around agricultural unuiversities in the country collecting hybrid varieties for marketing. This was also a clever way of collecting genetic resources in the name of marketing the varieties (at a nominal royalty payment of 5 per cent on the returns), which was finally stalled by ICAR. Knowing that Syngenta Corporation continues to look for avenues and opportunities for (mis)appropriating valuable genetic resources, isn't the ICAR and the Ministry of Environment and Forests competent to blacklist the company from any further research collaborations? And if not, why not? Isn't it the right case to launch legal proceedings against both the university and the private company? Why can't the government take the company to task and thereby demonstrate its willingness to act against biopirates? What is the use of framing laws and regulations when there is no will to act?


1. Seeds: Source of life or profit making by Suresh Kumar Sahu

2. Syngenta-IGKV collaboration -- Civil society rejects vice-chancellor's clarifications

3. Media update on Syngenta-IGKV collaboration


1. Seeds: Source of life or profit making

By Suresh Kumar Sahu

The issue of Bio-diversity, rights over seed resources have once again emerged as a challenge in front of us. In reality, farmers should have the rights over germ plasm. The question arises that what should be the process to exercise this right, what should be the civil and political values attached with the use of resources, what should be the arrangement for saving these resources from thrift or loot, in this process what will be the role of farmer, consumer, scientist community, government and widespread country loving citizens? These are such issues where conclusions cannot be drawn in a day but certainly require debate on ground level. In this debate peoples' organisations and groups will have to play an important role.

Since ages farmers especially women and tribals have protected and developed seeds. In tandem with nature, farmers with their knowledge base and life style have always protected the germ plasm. Hence they deserve fundamental right of use and protection of the varieties of germ plasm.

Third world countries possess most germ plasm. Here there is a need to view the rights over germ plasm at three levels. First, the seeds available with farmers at his farmland, second, the seeds stored in government gene banks and third, the seeds at international and private organisations. However only farmers have rights over all this in reality. Farmers can secure the use and protection of the varieties of germ plasm present in their farms either themselves or in groups. There is also a need to be aware about achieving the rights of farmers over the collected seeds in government and international organisations.

In all over world Indira Gandhi University ranks second in its collection of rice germ plasms. Chhattisgarh is one of the centre of origin of the indica variety of rice is grown. The varieties of rice found in chhattisgarh are one of its kinds. There are varieties present in Chhattisgarh where the time range of harvesting the rice ranges from 60 days to 150 days; the largest size of rice variety- dokra-dokri rice is also present here. Naargoidi rice which can grow in around 10 feet of water is also of Chhattisgarh. There are both coarse and flavoured fine rice varieties existing here. Some of the varieties of rice contain high protein as well as medicinal importance. The varieties are found according to the widespread land situation and topography of Chhattisgarh. These varieties are neither a product of test tubes in a lab nor are they dropped from the sky. In fact, Chhattisgarh's farmers have developed them through years of hard work spread in several generations.

With time there was a felt need of more production per unit area then the farmers of Chhattisgarh in their own farm lands tried to choose and promote more productive and disease resistant seeds. World famous rice scientist Dr. R. H. Richharia recognised the potential of varieties of rice plasms present and farmers rich knowledge and skill of farming in Chhattisgarh. Dr. Richharia, with the combination of the two, began an organised effort on sustainable rice farming in Chhattisgarh. Madhya Pradesh rice research centre's main focus was Chhattisgarh's farmers for which the then agricultural department officials and their colleagues worked day and night. It's important to note Dr. Richharia's strategy and techniques vis-à-vis this work. The work done by Dr. Richharia during this period is known as 'adaptive rice research'. In the first phase of this work all the varieties of rice with relevant information about them were collected from every corner of Chhattisgarh. From the the n undivided Madhya Pradesh around 19095 varieties of rice were collected from all the districts.

These varieties were then grown in Baronda agriculture farm near Raipur and then their qualities were documented. In this way study and documentation of all the varieties of rice was the first stage of the work. Here its important to note that the main aim of preserving the varieties under 'adaptive rice research' was the development of such varieties which could be again available to farmers and used by farmers in their particular situations if they found them conducive. That means here the implicit contract between farmers and Madhya Pradesh rice research centre was the use of these seeds and developing new seeds, which were conducive to the local situations, and giving them back to the farmers. It was not at all for earning profit by allowing their use by any company or organisation. Madhya Pradesh Rice Research Institute (MPRRI) were using these seeds according to the consent by the farmers. These collected and documented varieties were being tested in low external input condit ions which majority of the farmers of Chhattisgarh practice and can afford. In these circumstances, better performing seeds were chosen on the basis of 'pure line selection'. Through this the respective seeds were given the name of BD selection.

Thus in this way Dr. Richharia tried to develop 1500 BD selections and his next step was to make it available to farmers of Chhattisgarh where they could grow seeds conducive to them. In Dr. Richharia's strategy this was proposed that the model of Adaptive Rice Centre be implemented in a decentralised manner which can take forward the work of conservation and development of rice varieties. For this he gave a suggestion to spread the network of ' adaptive research centres' in entire Chhattisgarh. According to Dr. Richharia if one has to tell the most important quality of rice plant, providing food to crores of people, then it's the varieties evident in its thousands of varieties. According to him 'adaptive rice centre' will be the reserve of all the collected local varieties of rice. They would be kept alive in their natural environment for securing the future.

The proposed MOU between Indira Gandhi Agriculture University and multi national company Syngenta is beyond rational thinking. Syngenta is a multi national company whose business is spread over 50 countries. The mergence of seed and agriculture chemical departments of two companies Novartis and Astra-Zeneca in December 1999 formed Syngenta. It is the world's largest agriculture trade company. Its business is in agriculture, chemicals and seeds. Among seeds their production's important component is 'genetically modified seeds'.

Since last 25 years Indira Gandhi Agriculture University is situated at Raipur. And from that time itself it has 19000 varieties of germ plasm available for research. Many rice scientists are working from so many years. After all now what's the research which these scientists are incapable to do themselves? Has the university administration started doubting the potentials of their scientists? After all what is the technique used by Syngenta which the scientists of this university don't know? If we view the qualities of Syngenta we realise that under the pretext of solving the problems it creates bigger problems. Syngenta currently markets crops that are either herbicide tolerant or insect resistant genetically modified (GM) crops. We all are aware that in our farms along with the main crops there are also other biogenetic species which we also use for food. Syngenta's technique will destroy all these species.

Besides this these GM crops would have an adverse effect on whole eco-system. For example, gene transfer to related wild species might take place, creating herbicide tolerant 'super weeds'. Wherever these crops are used signs of its adverse effects are visible, therefore their opposition has begun. In the same way for protection against insects Syngenta's technique is such that insects will become resistant to the inbuilt insecticide and cause crop failures. That means any insect (useful or harmful for farming) will die after coming in contact with these crops. Gene transfer to related wild species might take place, creating insect resistant 'super weeds'.

The GM crop, leading to genetic contamination with the foreign genes, may pollinate neighbouring organic or non-GM crops. Genetic Use Restriction Technique(GURT) is promoted to make the farmer dependent on these companies for seeds every year. In our understanding after the adverse effects of atom bomb, terminator technique (infertile seed technique) is the biggest example of anti humanitarian technique and Syngenta is leading for promoting this. Despite their widespread ill effects on environment, farming and health Syngenta continues to develop and market GM crops and has remained in controversy. It's important to ponder whether there is an hidden agenda to experiment this in Chhattisgarh's farmers.

There is a trend of increasing investment in production and decreasing production in today's agricultural arena catalysed by green revolution. Now the most critical thing is to decrease the cost of production and increase production keeping in view the environment balance. In these circumstances, Chhattisgarh's farmers' seeds, knowledge and technique is more useful in increasing the production rate of rice and researching the drought resistant varieties which Dr. Richharia had done at one time even in formal 'scientific frame'. --------------------------

2. Syngenta-IGKV Collaboration Civil Society Organisations reject Vice-chancellor's clarifications

Dr.VK Patil, Vice-chancellor of the Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishvavidayalaya (IGKV) clarified the position of IGKV vis-à-vis the Syngenta deal in a press conference on November 27th. The press conference came soon after he was summoned by the Honorable Governor of Chhattisgarh and asked to explain the details of the collaboration following a huge media outcry and protests by Civil Society Organisations across the state.

In a written statement the VC of IGKV was forced admit that the first round of "informal preliminary" talks with Syngenta was held on July 31st, 2002 where a team of scientists including the Director - Research Dr.Tripathy met the Syngenta representative Dr.Abraham to pursue a proposal on collaborative research between Syngenta and IGKV.

Dr.Patil subsequently met Syngenta representatives in Aurangabad. He could offer no explanation as to why a meeting with the Syngenta representatives was not held in Raipur. He did insist however that the meeting was a preliminary one where he had clarified to Syngenta officials that any agreement will have to be vetted through the competent authorities including the ICAR, University Board and state Government officials. According to the VC it was at this meeting that Syngenta made clear the terms of the research offer under which they would provide funding to the University and jointly develop hybrid, drought-resistant rice varieties using the germplasm currently in possession of IGKV. The new varieties would be marketed by Syngenta and proportionate royalty given to IGKV.

Subsequently on October 23rd, 2002, a meeting was organised at IGKV where senior University officials met Syngenta representatives - Dr.G J Pal, Dr.M J Abraham and Dr. Bhargava. Syngenta officials had come to discuss the 15 point draft MoU which they had submitted to the University. Dr.Patil claimed that the conditions of the MoU including the proposals for joint research were unacceptable to the University which in turn therefore had prepared a 12 point MoU after consultations with 12 senior scientists and other officials of the University. The proposals included setting up a joint board for managing the programme with 3 representatives each of Syngenta and the University. The Board would be presided by a University official and would be co-ordinated by a Syngenta representative. The proposal to use the germplasm in possession of IGKV was agreed upon.

Despite persistent questioning by the media the VC refused to share the copies of the MoU drafted by Syngenta. Going on the offensive he claimed that in a globalised era such collaborations were increasingly becoming necessary and if any other company offered greater financial support than Syngenta, the University was willing to negotiate with them and go in for collaborative research on the germplasm with IGKV.

The VC also clarified that since they had not heard from Syngenta after the draft MoU (as proposed by IGKV), they had not gone in for further negotiations. Dr. Patil insisted that at no stage was the University considering compromising the IPR of the parental lines.

Interestingly, the VC went back on the earlier note released by IGKV which seemed to suggest that the discussions were at an advanced stage, on the grounds that it was based on incomplete information since both the Director - Research and he were out of station at the time that the controversy erupted.

Dr.Patil refused to categorically deny the allegations about the transfer of rice varieties to IRRI but instead chose to say that he was unaware of the details of an enquiry of the nature that was suggested by the media.-------------------

3. Media Update on Syngenta-IGKV collaboration

Dainik Bhaskar, Nov 9, 2002:

Title: "IGKV to grant the rights of rare varieties of rice to multi national company"

· Meeting held in Germ Plasm centre, University on 23rd October 2002. Attended by Head of Department, 3 scientists, 4 administrative officers and 7 others.

· Opposition to company's terms and conditions by few of the agriculture scientists because the company would use this in its favour.

· Company is bent upon taking the rights of research on the use of varieties of rice.

· VC, Dr. Patila told the representatives of the company to talk to him after his 'Germany tour'.

· Preparation going on to secretly hand over the rights of research on 23,000 rare varieties of rice plasm to multi national company by the University.

· Director of Hyderabad Rice Research Centre, Dr. B.Mishra opposes this move.

· A fixed amount of money earned by selling the new hybrid variety of rice in market would be given to the university as royalty. VC agreed on this bargain.

Navbharat, Nov 12, 2002:

Title: " Multi national company to prepare the hybrid varieties of rice in Chhattisgarh"

· University to do the research jointly with Syngenta.

· Company to pay the royalty by selling the developed varieties in the foreign market. Decision to be taken on this proposal after state's approval.

· Germ plasm to be used only by them and will not allow it to go outside.

· Both Logo of Syngenta and the University to be used on the packets used for selling the varieties of rice.

Deshbandhu, Nov 15, 2002:

Title: "Agriculture University to hand over the rare varieties of rice unknown to farmers to multi national company"

· This decision is opposed by a number of NGO's and Civil Society Organisations.

· With the assistance of the farmers Dr. Richharia developed 17000 national varieties of germ plasms in Chhattisgarh. He was director of Rice Research Centre, Madhya Pradesh (posted in Chhattisgarh). In 1977 document he has stated that better and more cost effective national varieties than international ones are available in the market.

· He was ousted from his post because of opposing the foreign varieties.

Deshbandhu and Navbharat, Nov 16, 2002

Title: "Opposition of granting the rights of rare varieties of rice to multinational company Syngenta"

Attack on Chhattisgarh's identity- CPI (M)

· Sanjay Parate demands the state to intervene in this matter.

· Also stated that under this veil Chhattisgarh's farmers would be compelled to buy the hybrid seeds.

Deshbandhu, Nov 18, 2002:

Title:"CM to have secret agreement with Syngenta- Brij Mohan Agrawal(BJP Leader) "

· Like other industry CM is spoiling Chhattisgarh's agriculture.

· Blaims the CM of attack on Chhattisgarh's identity by this move.

· Blaims the CM that the crop rotation change campaign was totally based on directions of multi national companies.

Deshbandhu, Nov 20, 2002:

Title: " After commitments to Syngenta, Agriculture University has not kept the agreement."

· Dr. S.N Srivastava of Agriculture University denies of any agreement. Also denies of any meeting held in Aurangabad.

· Syngenta proposed to work jointly on development of hybrid seeds variety, drought resistant varieties and marketing strategy. Also proposed to give grants to the university for research in which the University and Syngenta would use the available germ plasm for marketing by Syngenta while the university would have the royalty for 7 years.

· Mr. Tripathy said, "University's officials denied to accept some of the terms and conditions of Syngenta Company and proposed new conditions from the university's side". Also said that on this subject any decision can be taken only after agreement by University's scientists/officials, University' s academic group, administrative group, Indian agricultural research community and state government.

· University is waiting for company's answer.

· Made clear that parental license to be with the university.

Deshbandhu, Nov 26, 2002:

Title: "Efforts to justify after the illegal agreement with Syngenta"

· On 20th august 2002, VC met the officials of the Syngenta Company on invitation, in Aurangabad.

· The present proposed agreement between Syngenta and University is violation of Ritho agreement held 10 years back. This agreement took place on 29 December 1993 in which 156 countries had signed and India was one of them. According to this agreement germ plasm should be protected at local level and before taking it anywhere the consent of local communities should be obtained.

· Some of the varieties of rice have already reached foreign countries.

· One of the scientist associated with agriculture university is of the opinion that if there is an agreement with any multi national company then the permission to use the seeds cannot be granted without intimating National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR).

[We are thankful to Chhattisgarh Biodiversity Security Forum, which provided us these updates. The Forum includes People's Union for Civil Liberties (Chhattisgarh Lok Swantantra Sangthan), Ekta Parishad, Rupantar, ActionAid, World Social Forum - Chhattisgarh Chapter, Chhattisgarh Kisani Samvardhan Kendra and other organisations]


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