The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) -- a farmer's organisation -- has taken the lead in proposing an alternative to the Union government's draft bill on protection of plant varieties, which is based on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations. In February, representatives of six groups, including the KRRS, the Bharatiya Kisan Union and the Rajasthan Kisan Sanghatan, put forward to the government a Community Intellectual Property Rights (CIPR) Act.
Union agriculture secretary J C Pant has reportedly agreed to discuss the alternative draft with other farmers. The CIPR Act advocates the custodianship of all innovations with the local community and free exchange of innovations among them, registration of organisations that represent these innovations and payment to them when the devices are put to commercial.
"As part of this plan, the KRRS is already setting up seed banks in Karnataka, which will soon be registered," says M D Nanjundaswamy who heads the organisation. These banks will be headquartered in Kittur in Karnataka's Belgaum district and will identify and conserve indigenous seed varieties. They will be run entirely by farmers in collaboration with agricultural scientists from the Malaysian-based international non-governmental organisation, Third World Network, and other similar seed farms. Says Nanjundaswamy, "The seed banks will be operational from April 13, the day Union commerce minister Pranab Mukherjee ratifies the GATT agreement in Morocco."