NEW DELHI, August 16,
2005 (Financial Express via CropChoice.com): The Swiss
biotech giant, Syngenta has tightened its monopoly control over
rice by seeking global patents over thousands of gene sequences.
A single grain of rice contains 37,544 genes, roughly one-fourth
more than the genes in a human body. With the multinational all
set to "own" rice, the world's most important staple food
crop, there may be serious implications for future research in this
These patents are filed before the European Patent Office, US Patent
and Trademark Office and the World Intellectual Property Rights
"If conceded, it will be the beginning of scientific apartheid
not only against India but for all Third World countries,"
said Devinder Sharma, chair of the New Delhi-based Forum for Biotechnology
& Food Security.
The former director-general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research
(ICAR) and present vice-chancellor of Banaras Hindu University Dr
Punjab Singh said, "The situation is very serious. All patent
applications need proper scrutiny and India should fight to safeguard
its interests, if they are affected."
Syngenta's patent claims are also aimed at other important food
crops like wheat, corn, sorghum, rye, banana, soyabean, fruits and
vegetables besides others. The company claims that most of the gene
sequences that it has 'invented' are identical in other crops and
therefore the patent needs to extend to those crops also. In all,
Syngenta has filed for patents on 15 gene sequences.
In a communication to the NGOs - Berne Declaration (Switzerland),
Swissaid (Switzerland), the German NGO "No Patents on Life"
and Greenpeace, Adrian Dubock, head of Biotechnology ventures in
Syngenta, had said, "Syngenta's original commercial interest
(discontinued for now, but not necessarily forever) was for sales
in the industrialized countries of nutritionally enhanced crops,
included, but not limited to rice."
According to Dubock, the patent on the GE rice will not be dropped.
Yet the company claims there are no commercial interests in this
technology at the moment.