Agri Business

Seed industry proposes changes in Seed Bill 2019

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on December 04, 2019

The National Seed Association of India (NSAI), which represents top seed companies in the country, on Wednesday suggested some changes in the proposed Seed Bill 2019, including a more scientific definition of transgenic variety, enhanced farmer rights on seeds and enlisting the services of private firms for evaluating new varieties before seed registration.

In letters written to Indian Council of Agricultural Research - Director General (ICAR) Trilochan Mahapatra and others, NSAI said there is a serious lacuna in the definition of transgenic variety, which was not clear and also unscientific. This needs to be corrected, the organisation said in a statement. "This is a very critical bill, which affects all Indians. No decision should be made in haste, and hence we have sent additional comments for the government,” NSAI president Prabhakar Rao said.

According to NSAI, the Seed Act 1966, which India passed immediately after the advent of Green Revolution, was inspired by the US system where the variety registration was left to the discretion of the developer. The new bill, on the contrary, is similar to what is followed in Europe where there are defined parameters and procedures for the release of new varieties.

Lacunae in legislation

Among those salient features that resemble the EU legislation are compulsory registration of seed varieties based on VCU (value for cultivation and use), evaluation and licensing of seed producers and processors. There are also provisions for price control in the event of an emergency, monopolisation or profiteering, NSAI said.

Considering more than 100 crops, five geographical regions and hundreds of seed companies with R&D, the workload for nationwide evaluation is going to be 30 to 40 times greater than the existing workload. It is, therefore, essential to enlist the facilities available with seed companies for ensuring fast-track registration. The companies can be given accreditation to do this after a thorough evaluation by an empowered committee, it observed. NSAI said such practice already exists in countries like China.

Another shortfall in the proposed piece of legislation was disparity between the rights conferred on farmers as compared to that in the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act. “India has one of the most progressive PPVFRA laws in the world. The Seed Bill 2019 is an opportunity for our lawmakers to set another precedent in the world. We have given our comments in the interest of our nation and its farmers, and would caution the government of those who want UPOV to enter India through this bill. We wouldn’t want this new bill to create a monopoly or loot our farmers. We want a seed bill that serves national interest of India,” said NSAI programme director for policy and outreach, Indra Shekhar Singh.

Published on December 04, 2019

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