Friday, February 17, 2006

Agri Research Privatized ... who will benefit?

Grist for the US mills
But will 'rapid commercialisation' benefit the Indian farmer? It can, if there are appropriate policies and safeguards to protect poor farmers from trade-related shocks and other vagaries of commercialisation. But the country does not afford its farmers much security against the whims of the market. Lest we forget, not too far back, the BT cotton fiasco drove farmers to suicide in Andhra Pradesh and Vidarbha: there was no insurance umbrella to cover these agriculturists from financial loss.

The treaty has other perils. It threatens to expose the country's bio wealth to the machinations of US-based corporates and research institutes. Agro-interests in the US have had designs on the country's bio-resources for quite some time now. In 1995, the medicine centre of the University of Michigan even managed to secure a US patent on certain therapeutic uses of turmeric. And then in 1997, a private agricultural company in the US patented basmati rice as 'texmati'. Such biopiracy happened clandestinely. But now it can take place with official sanction. The MoU to open up our agricultural research institutes to private players from the US will ensure exactly that.

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