By Jeremy Bloom | 02 October 2011, 11:21 BST
For two decades, Monsanto has been able to take living organisms, insert genes into them, and then patent them as its own intellectual property. And nobody has challenged this - until now.
The government of India has filed suit against Monsanto - for violating India's Biological Diversity Act (BDA). It's the first time a company has been sued by a government for acts of biopiracy.
"This can send a different message to the big companies for violating the laws of the nation," said K.S. Sugara, Member Secretary of the Karnataka Biodiversity Board, to France 24 (click the link for a video report). "It is not acceptable ... that the farmers in our communities are robbed of the advantage they should get from the indigenous varieties."
India has been increasingly concerned with Monsanto's flouting of various laws, and attempts to circumvent regulation. Monsanto, for its part, has seen India as a huge market, with gene-modified cotton already being sold and a big push underway for Bt gene-modified corn.
But the Indian government says Monsanto has also been using test plots to steal indigenous Indian species - like eggplant (know locally as brinjal) which it would then market without making any payment or compensation.
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