SC sets aside Delhi HC ruling against Monsanto

Prelims level : Agriculture; Judiciary Mains level : GS 3: Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; GS2: Role of Judiciary
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  • Providing relief to agri-sector major Monsanto, the Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside a Delhi High Court (DHC) order invalidating Monsanto Technology’s patents on BT cotton seeds.

Background of the case:

  • A division bench DHC had earlier ruled that Monsanto could not claim patents of GM (genetically modified) cotton seeds since items like seeds, plants and animals can’t be patented under Indian laws.
  • Monsanto sells GM cotton seeds in India through its joint venture with Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co — Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd (MMBL).
  • MBBL had terminated its sub-license with Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd (NSL) in 2015 after a royalty payment dispute. The case reached court when NSL continued to sell genetically modified seeds even after its contract was terminated, with the latter seeking an ad-interim injunction. In November 2016, a single judge bench of the High Court restrained NSL from selling BT cotton seeds using the trademark of Monsanto or MMBL.
  • However, a division bench of the Delhi High Court had overturned this.
  • Now, the SC set aside a Delhi High Court Division Bench decision that held that U.S. agro major Monsanto did not have patent for its genetically modified BT cotton seed variants and had allowed it to claim registration under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001.

About Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001:

  • The Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, 2001 (PPVFR Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India that was enacted to provide for the establishment of an effective system for protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders, and to encourage the development and cultivation of new varieties of plants.
  • The PPV&FR Act, 2001 was enacted to grant intellectual property rights to plant breeders, researchers and farmers who have developed any new or extant plant varieties.
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