Social Scientist. v 12, no. 131 (April 1984) p. 51.


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C P GWA^

International Dispute over Political Control of Plant Genetic Resources

THE INTERNATIONAL dispute regarding the need for an internationi convention for the free exchange of genetic material (seeds, plant cuttings etc) of food crops and for protective measur.es against unrestrained exploitation of plant genetic material originating in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America by the Western transnational companies and the advanced capitalist countries, brings *t into sharp focus the issues related to the political control over genetic resources. Despite the growing awareness amongst at least a section of the scientists involved in agricultural research on the need to conserve the genetic diversity of food crops, Tiardly any notice has been taken of the nature of neo-colonial exploitation of plant genetic resources. Not only has the plant breeding material taken from Third World countries added billions of dollers to the profits of seed business companies by the sale of hybrid seeds, but it has also saved the food crops like corn, wheat etc in North America and West Europe from possible crop failures by providing the genetic material necessary for disease resistance. This in itself involves savings of several billion dollars for agriculture in the West.

It is recognised that the HYV agro-chemical package of the (green revolution5 was explicitly designed to serve the multiple aims of (a) increasing agricultural output and productivity in the fhird World countries so as to case the food supply situation without restructuring the property relations in the countryside in any significant manner, except in the creation of a narrow stratum of neo-rich capitalist or proto-capitalist farmers, (b) increasing the dependence of Third World countries on foreign capital; and (c) integrating rural production firmly into the market economy, both domestic and international. The socio-economic and political aspects of the drain of plant genetic resources which accompanied the "green revolution9 has not entered into this discussion. Most often the issue of plant genetic resources is looked upon merely as another lact of ecological conservation. The genetic

^^Formerly Research Scholar at the School of Knvironm^ntal Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru Univerisity, New Delhi, and presently an activist of the Delhi Science Foium.



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