Intellectual Property Rights in Agricultural Biotechnology and Access to Technology: A Critical Appraisal

Kshitij Kumar Singh

Abstract: IP protection to agricultural biotechnology has remained a contentious issue in India having serious implications for stakeholders and agricultural innovation. Farmers and plant breeders made strong resistance against the extension of IP monopoly to agriculture sector and were sceptical that their rights could be compromised against the interest of giant agro-based companies. However, the growing need to enhance food production, improve the quality of seeds, experiment the nutritional content of food crops and attract investment in agricultural field necessitated the conjunction of IPR and agricultural biotechnology. India has adopted a dual form of IP protection for agricultural biotechnology; plant varieties are protected through the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001, while the genetic traits of plants are protected through the Patents Act 1970. Though the line of demarcation as to the application of both the laws is theoretically drawn, enormous confusion persists on practical level. The IP protection to agricultural biotechnology has not produced desired results in India due to asymmetrical innovation model, complex regulatory structure and confusing regulatory approach. The exclusive licensing practices with exorbitant licensing fee on uneven licensing terms place licensor, licensee and end user in a conflicting position and raise the issues of accessibility and affordability of technology.

Key words: Agricultural Biotechnology, Patents, Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001 (PPVFRA), IPR, Innovation