Cip on Mon, 27 Apr 1998 23:02:30 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Rice: Basmati or Texmati?

               NEW DELHI (AP)--India's new government may enact
               legislation to protect farmers' rights on patents,
               a local news agency reported Monday.

               The Indian government has been upset in recent months
               over patents awarded in the U.S. for plant products that
               the government says have been used in India for
               hundreds of years.

               The latest row is over the granting of a patent to a
               Texas-based rice firm to produce and market a
               long-grain rice called Texmati, similar to Basmati, an
               aromatic rice grown in parts of India and Pakistan.

               India says Basmati refers specially to the type of rice
               grown in that region and wants the patent canceled. It
               has, however, not filed an appeal with the U.S. Patent

               India's junior agriculture minister, Som Pal, told a
               meeting in New Delhi that the World Trade Organization
               should punish those who misuse patents, Press Trust of
               India news agency reported.

               India does not have laws to protect its biodiversity
               rights and intellectual property.

               In the past, two American scientists were granted a
               patent - subsequently canceled - for using turmeric to
               heal wounds. The Indian government successfully argued
               before the U.S. Patent Office that turmeric root has been
               used for centuries in India to heal wounds.

               Earlier, it lost out in trying to prevent American
               companies from patenting processes to make
               insecticides using neem, a plant used for thousands of
               years by Indian farmers to keep away insects.

               Meanwhile, a non-governmental organization, Research
               Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, has
               filed a case in India's Supreme court to force the
               government to react in the Basmati patent case.

               The court asked India's attorney-general last week what
               the government had done to prevent biopiracy.

               At least seven government ministries are currently
               involved in taking steps to prevent biopiracy, the court
               was told. They include a law to protect agricultural
               biodiversity, recognizing indigenous knowledge systems
               and bring into effect the convention on biological
               diversity, according to Vandana Shiva, director of the

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