(File pic: MSSRF field trials of salt tolerant rice, Kalpakkam)
Chennai, May 17, 2016: Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has rightly mentioned that the New IPR Policy will provide stimulus to R&D innovations. This is the rationale behind IPR policies since a reward and recognition system for innovations helps to attract more financial investment and professional engagement. An efficient IPR System must make scientific discoveries more inclusive in terms of access. For example, vaccines covered by patents may not be easily available to those who need them, unless government takes special steps. Therefore, while safeguarding the interest of the innovators and discoverers we should ensure that patent rights do not come in the way of the economically and socially underprivileged sections of the society benefitting from the discovery. An interesting model was developed in Switzerland to promote concurrently innovation and social access. This related to the Golden Rice characterised by high Vitamin A content. To ensure that the original scientists who developed golden rice are not deprived of reward for their scientific genius, the Government of Switzerland along with a few private foundations like Syngenta, initiated a Humanitarian Trust. This Trust was intended to buy the relevant patent and make it available to those suffering from Vitamin A deficiency at very low cost or even free. In a country like ours with gross social and economic inequity, we should ensure that those who benefit from a discovery are enabled to do so, through initiatives like the Humanitarian Trust. MSSRF which holds patents for genes for salinity tolerance and drought resistance adopts a pre-breeding cum participatory breeding policy, i.e. the genes for abiotic resistance developed through molecular genetics are available to farmers for breeding location specific strains. This falls under defensive patenting.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.