ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Protecting Basmati

Suman Sahai AN American company Rice Tech has received a patent on basmati rice, This blatant infringement of India's rights and property has raised a furore in the media and justifiably so, How should India respond? In planning its counter strategy, it would not be advisable for India to merely rely on challenging the patent as is being advocated. This is the easiest and least profitable line of action, as also the most expensive. It would not be difficult to challenge the 'novelty' of the characteristics of the basmati that is patented. Any plant breeder could quite easily demonstrate that the special qualities supposed to be present in the patented basmati are found in the normal diversity of basmati populations. If one had to analyse the basmati strains of India and Pakistan, all the characteristics described for size and quality of the rice grain or for the height and behaviour of the plant, would be found. The case can be effectively made that at best the patented variety has brought a combination of favourable characters together but that is the everyday stuff of plant breeding and does not qualify for a patent.

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