8:48 AM Apr 13, 1993


Geneva 2 April (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- A new broad-based patent in genetic engineering granted in the United States to a Belgian enterprise seems likely to further tighten biotech monopoly controls of TNCs over agriculture.

'RAFI Communique' (a monthly publication of the Canada-based 'Rural Advancement Foundation International'), cites AgBiotechnology News, February issue for the information that the Plant Genetic Systems (PGS) of Belgium has been granted broad-based US patents covering many plants and seeds genetically engineered with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) genes.

AgBiotechnology News, in its December issue, had reported that a broad-based patent esd granted in the US was to Agracetus Inc. (Middleton, Wisconsin), a subsidiary of W.R.Grace and Co, covering all genetically engineered cotton products.

This "unusually broad scope" of coverage, AgBiotechnology pointed out, is "unprecedented" in plant biotechnology and "may be an indication of how major corporations can use biotech patents to get proprietory control of huge segments of agriculture".

Since it is the first to develop transgenic cotton, Agracetus claimed rights to any and all transgenic cotton, regardless of which engineering technique is used. All transgenic products will ahve to be licensed through Agracetus before they can enter the market place.

Similarly, PGS os quoted by AgBiotechnology News as saying that since "it was the first to demonstrate that Bt genes could be engineered into plants and, accordingly, any company that genetically engineers Bt into most plant crops will need to negotiate a licensing agreement with PGS."

With the Uruguay Round Trips agreement ensuring global monopoly rights for patent holders, and severely restricting the 'rights' of society under the WIPO administered Paris Union conventions (working of a patent in the territory of a state granting the patent, compulsory licensing etc), such broadbased patents would severely restrict future research and developments in the Third World. TNCs, who already dominate agriculitural commodity trades, through cross-licensing of these patents, can easily control the entire Agricultural and health sectors in the Third World, blocking competitivity in the South.