Millennium Post

No stay on Centre’s Bt cotton order: HC

Delhi High Court has refused to put on hold the Centre’s order enabling a government-appointed panel to fix the maximum sale price of genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seeds.

Justice Manmohan issued notice to the government and sought its response by March 4 on the plea of Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India (Pvt) Ltd challenging the Agriculture Ministry’s January 27 order giving powers to the committee to fix license fee payable by sub-licensees for GM technology. The court clarified that “any action taken by respondent (Centre) in pursuance to the aforesaid order shall be subject to further orders”.

Under the January 27 order, the panel was given powers to fix the license fee payable by sub-licensees to Mahyco and suggest the licensing guidelines and format for all GM technology licensing agreements between them inter se, the court noted in its order.

Mahyco has claimed that by issuing the order, the government was trying to “unfairly regulate and expropriate” its rights in respect of valuable intellectual property and freedom to negotiate and contract the terms of its licensing agreements with its sub-licensees.

Seeking stay of the order, it contended that its technology is its patent and is governed by the Patents Act, 1970 and thus, the government cannot fix the price at which the company will supply its technology to seed manufacturers. Mahyco is a joint venture between US agriculture company Monsanto and Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company which sublicenses biotechnology to seed companies. The panel was set up consequent to a December 2015 price control order issued by the Agriculture Ministry. 

In the notification dated December 7, 2015, the ministry had said the Cotton Seeds Price (Control) Order has been issued for “uniform regulation” of sale price of cotton seeds with existing and future GM technologies. The aim was to ensure that cotton seeds are available to farmers at “fair, reasonable and affordable prices” and the rates are uniform across the country, it had said.

As per the notification, the committee was tasked with recommending the maximum retail price of cotton seeds after taking into account the seed value, license fee which includes one-time and recurring royalty (trait value), trade margins and other taxes.

Mahyco has also challenged some provisions of the December 2015 price control order.
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