India top court refuses to stay order against Monsanto on GM cotton patents

FILE PHOTO: Monsanto logo is displayed on a screen where the stock is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S. on May 9, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India’s Supreme Court on Monday refused to grant a stay on a Delhi High Court ruling that U.S. company Monsanto cannot claim patents on its GM cotton seeds, but the world’s largest seed maker said it is “confident on the merits” of its case.

The Delhi High Court last month concurred with Indian seed company Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd, which argued that India’s Patent Act does not allow Monsanto any patent cover for its genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds.

The case is being submitted for an expedited preliminary hearing on July 18, said a Monsanto India spokesman.

“We remain confident on the merits of the case. India has been issuing patents on man-made biotech products for more than 15 years, as is done widely across the globe,” the Monsanto India spokesman said.

New Delhi approved Monsanto’s GM cotton seed trait, the only lab-altered crop allowed in India, in 2003, and an upgraded variety in 2006. The approvals helped turn the country into the world’s top producer and second-largest exporter of cotton.

Monsanto’s GM cotton seed technology now dominates 90 percent of India’s cotton acreage.

The Delhi High Court’s decision in April would provide relief to farmers by reducing royalties and seed prices, said Kalyan Goswami, director general of the National Seed Association of India (NSAI).

Details of the Supreme Court’s refusal to grant a stay on the ruling against Monsanto were not immediately available.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Tom Hogue