SYNGENTA FOILED - Victory or Temporary Lull in
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
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
Food Security Policy Adviser
ITDG, (Intermediate Technology Development Group)
Schumacher Centre, Bourton, RUGBY, CV23 9QZ, UK
From AgBioIndia < http://www.agbioindia.org/archive.asp?id=145 >
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
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
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
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
*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
*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
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
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
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
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
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
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: email@example.com]
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
2. Syngenta-IGKV Collaboration Civil Society Organisations reject
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
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
· Meeting held in Germ Plasm centre, University on 23rd October 2002.
Attended by Head of Department, 3 scientists, 4 administrative officers and 7
· 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
· Director of Hyderabad Rice Research Centre, Dr. B.Mishra opposes this
· 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
Navbharat, Nov 12, 2002:
Title: " Multi national company to prepare the hybrid varieties of rice
· 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
· 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
· 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
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
· 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]