A Quarter Century of Globalization in India: Impact on Food and Medicines

di Nilima Chandiramani 

The genesis of globalization can be traced back to Bretton Woods Conference of 1944. The Conference resulted in the establishment of new organizations such as World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade [GATT]. The GATT culminated in the formation of the World Trade Organization [WTO] on 1 January 1995. The WTO covers trade in goods, services, intellectual property, investments and agriculture. India is a member of WTO.


India has witnessed a quarter century of globalization. In 1991 tall claims were made that India would benefit by opening her economy to the world. This paper segregates the hype from reality by highlighting the impact of globalization on two vital sectors of Indian economy – agriculture and pharmaceuticals. After tracing the genesis of globalization and birth of WTO on 1 January 1995, the first part of the paper, dealing with agriculture, scrutinizes the deleterious impact of market access, domestic subsidies, export competition; and the patenting/protection of plant varieties on food and livelihood security of the nation; rights of farm families and indigenous communities; and our genetic resources and traditional knowledge. The second part of the paper critically examines the history and the provisions of The Indian Patent Act 1970, before and after the establishment of the WTO; the flexibilities permissible under the TRIPS Text to safeguard public health; and the attempts made by pharmaceutical MNCs to dilute our laws in order to make us TRIPS-plus compliant and to throttle Indian pharmaceutical companies through takeovers. The paper concludes by saying that India should beware the expansionary needs of gigantic agricultural and pharmaceutical corporations and continue to protect its agriculture and public health. Agriculture and patent issues are not trade issues. They are survival/livelihood and development issues; best left to national government to legislate, depending upon its stage of development.

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