17 June 1998
US rice patent curries no favour with India

By Johann Tasker

THE Indian Government has accused the USA of attempting to “economically hijack” world trade in basmati rice.

The US Government recently granted a patent for a new high-yielding strain of basmati rice. The rice, developed by RiceTec Inc of Texas, can be grown in the USA with the help of chemicals.

But the Indian minister of food and consumer affairs, Surgit Singh Barnala, today said real basmati rice came only from India.

“To say basmati rice can be grown in America is like saying Scotch Whisky can be made in India,” Mr Barnala told delegates at the International Grains Council conference in London.

RiceTec now wants to sell the new strain of basmati rice in the UK under the Texmati name. But the Indian Government is trying to have the US patent revoked for fear that the rice will damage exports.

“This is a case of economic hijack,” Mr Barnala said. “There is virtually a worldwide scramble to patent anything that is part of the Indian food chain. We are facing setbacks through certain practices which are, in our opinion, not very desirable.”