Genetically Modified Crops and Intellectual Property Law
Genetically Modified Crops and
Intellectual Property Law
Interpreting Indian Patents on Bt Cotton in View of the Socio-
by Lodewijk Van Dycke and Geertrui Van Overwalle*
© 2017 Lodewijk Van Dycke and Geert rui Van Overwalle
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Recommended citation: Lod ewijk Van Dycke and Geertrui Van Ove rwalle, Geneticall y Modified Crops and Intellec tual Property
Law: Interpreting Indian Patent s on Bt Cotton in View of the Socio-Poli tical Background, 8 (2017) JIPITEC 151 para 1.
Keywords: Bt cotton; genetically modified crops; patents; intellectual property; India; deliberative democracy
tices of the Bt cotton industry (which mainly uses
patents on the Bt technology). Furthermore, the In-
dian courts do have the legal possibility to interpret
the Indian Patent Act in such a way that it prohib-
its the patenting of plants and plant parts. Such an
interpretation could potentially help to appease the
ongoing controversy and to foster a deliberative de-
bate on genetically modified crops and rural develop-
Abstract: In India, patents on Bt cotton have
given rise to an unproductive controversy. This con-
troversy has compromised the deliberative debate
on the potential contribution of genetically modified
crops to rural development. Notwithstanding the on-
going controversy, the article argues that the central
demand of the campaign against patents on Bt cot-
ton (the abolishment of patents on plants and plant
parts) is actually not in contradiction with the prac-
From the year 2001 onwards, genetically modied
(GM) crops have profoundly inuenced the
agricultural practices in many Indian states.12 More
* Lodewijk Van Dycke is a PhD Researcher, Centre for IT & IP
Law, Faculty of Law, KU Leuven, Sint-Michielsstraat 6, BE-
3000 Leuven, Belgium - 003216321652 - lodewijk.vandycke@
kuleuven.be; Corresponding author. Geertrui Van Overwalle
is a Professor of IP Law, Centre for IT & IP Law, Faculty of
Law, KU Leuven, Sint-Michielsstraat 6, BE-3000 Leuven,
Belgium - 003216323736 - geertrui.vanoverwalle@kuleuven.
be; Visiting Professor Tilburg University.
1 Choudhary and Gaur, ‘Biotech Cotton in India, 2002 to 2014’
(ISAAA Series of Biotech Crop Proles, ISAAA 2015) <https://
Bt_Cotton_in_India-2002-2014-Hindi.pdf> accessed 27 July
2 For a historical overview of the events mentioned in this
article, see Table 1 Historical overview.
specically, GM cotton has overtaken the Indian
cotton areal and is now grown on approximately
95 per cent of the Indian cotton elds.3 In this GM
cotton, a gene from a common soil bacterium (Bacillus
Thuringiensis or “Bt”) has been introduced: the “Cry
gene” or “Bt gene”, hence “Bt cotton”. This gene
causes the plant to produce a protein that is toxic for
insects of the Lepidoptera order, which comprises
the ercest insect pest for cotton: bollworms.
3 James and others, ‘Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/
GM Crops’ (ISAAA Brief 51, ISAAA 2015) <http://www.
accessed 17 May 2016.
4 Vaeck and others, ‘Transgenic Plants Protected from Insect
Attack’ (1987) 328 Nature pp. 33-37; Peferoen, ‘Progress
and Prospects for Field Use of Bt Genes in Crops’ (1997) 15
Trends in Biotechnology pp. 173-177; Herring, ‘WHY DID
“OPERATION CREMATE MONSANTO” FAIL?: Science and
Class in India’s Great Terminator-Technology Hoax’ (2006)
38 Critical Asian Studies pp. 467-493.