Ranjan Narula Associates

Removal of 'No-Objection-Certificate' brings relief to plant breeders
With the new amendment issued by Protection of plant varieties and farmers' rights authority (PPV&FR Authority), now the plant breeders will not be required to seek 'No-Objection-Certificate' (NoC) from the patentee/licensee to work on its patented genetically modified traits.

Ordinarily, a transgenic plant variety is registrable under the PPVFR Act so long as it satisfies the NDUS criteria (i.e. Novelty, Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability). In addition to NDUS, until now there was a procedural requirement to take No objection Certificate (NOC) from the patentee/ licensee of a particular genetically modified trait for further development of a new plant variety which was based on the genetically modified trait and its registration under the PPVFRA.

This requirement was challenged before the High Court of Hyderabad by seed companies. The High Court further directed the Authority to hear the matter on merits and pass an order in accordance with law. Consequently, the Authority decided to remove the NOC requirement. The 'for' argument extended by Additional Solicitor-General for the deletion of requirement had important point that the "PPVFR Act only required a declaration from the applicant seeking registration of a plant variety or hybrid that they had "lawfully acquired" the genetic material or parental material for breeding, evolving or developing it and this requirement of declaration cannot be stretched to mean the requirement of seeking NOC from the patentee/licensee of any plant trait."

The decision carries great relevance in the context of Bt Cotton plant varieties where Monsanto has a patent on bollworm-resistant GM trait and the plant breeders working on to develop plant varieties based on these GM traits had to obtain an NOC from Monsanto for the protection of the developed plant variety. Most of the times, the NOC permission from Monsanto came along with "conditions" to plant breeders, which were not appreciated by the plant breeders.

The removal of the requirement is set to bring a great change for the domestic seed companies. This change was long awaited and has come as a major relief for plant breeders and farmers, who will be able to freely use GM trait for developing and registering new varieties under PPVFRA.
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