Govt Looks to Bring Out Seeds Bill from Cold Stor­age, Push for Pas­sage

The Bill, re­vived af­ter 10 years in 2014, was put on hold again in 2015 af­ter back­lash against a pro­vi­sion for GM crops

The Economic Times - - Economy: Macro, Micro & More - @times­

New Delhi: Af­ter assem­bly elec­tions to five states are over, the govern­ment may re­vive the Seeds Bill that seeks to reg­u­late seeds and plant ma­te­rial to en­sure quality, in­crease pri­vate par­tic­i­pa­tion in pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion, lib­er­alise im­ports while in­cor­po­rat­ing mea­sures to pro­tect rights of farm­ers.

The Bill, re­vived by this govern­ment af­ter 10 years in Novem­ber 2014, was put on hold in 2015 af­ter back­lash against an en­abling pro­vi­sion for ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied (GM) crops. The pro­posed Bill is ex­pected to give a ma­jor boost to agri­cul­tural growth.

A se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cial told ET that the re­vival of the Seeds Bill and its early pas­sage with the pro­posed amend­ments is quin­tes­sen­tial for dou­bling farm­ers’ in­come, one of the key com­mit­ments of this govern­ment.

“The Bill is im­por­tant for the sec­tor as it will bring in com­peti- tion among play­ers and pro­mote healthy crops. Hence, we may re­vive the Bill soon,” the of­fi­cial said on con­di­tion of anonymity. A high-level meet­ing to dis­cuss the Bill is ex­pected next month.

At least three rounds of in­ter­min­is­te­rial con­sul­ta­tions on the Bill have al­ready been held dur­ing which all min­istries agreed to its ma­jor pro­vi­sions, in­clud­ing five re­cent amend­ments.

A fi­nal pro­posal was read­ied based on feed­back and was sub­mit­ted to the Cabi­net Sec­re­tar­iat be­fore it was put on hold. Among the pro­posed amend­ments is a clause to en­sure uni­for­mity in laws re­lat­ing to the im­port and ex­port of seeds and the use of GM seeds with ex­ist­ing na­tional reg­u­la­tions. The Bill re­quires ev­ery seller of seeds (in­clud­ing farm­ers) to meet cer­tain min­i­mum stan­dards. The Bill re­places Seeds Bill 2004 seeks to reg­u­late seeds, plant ma­te­rial, in­crease pri­vate par­tic­i­pa­tion Three rounds of in­ter-min­is­te­rial talks al­ready held All min­istries have agreed to ma­jor pro­vi­sions and 5 amend­ments

the Seeds Act, 1966.

Un­der the Bill, all va­ri­eties of seeds for sale have to be reg­is­tered. If a reg­is­tered va­ri­ety of seed fails to per­form up to ex­pected stan­dards, the farmer can claim com­pen­sa­tion from the pro­ducer or dealer. A com­pen­sa­tion com­mit­tee shall hear and de­cide these cases. The Bill also pro­vides for an ap­pel­late mech­a­nism to be Bill was put on hold in 2015 af­ter protests an en­abling pro­vi­sion for GM crops

set up by no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Be­sides, the Bill also ex­empts farm­ers from the re­quire­ment of com­pul­sory regis­tra­tion while pre­scrib­ing huge penalty for con­tra­ven­ing any pro­vi­sion of the Act for those sell­ing mis­branded or sub­stan­dard seeds.

GM crops, in which a gene is al­tered for a spe­cific out­come, have faced stiff re­sis­tance in the coun- try by civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing those af­fil­i­ated to the Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh (RSS), the rul­ing BJP’s ide­o­log­i­cal par­ent, on grounds of biosafety and mar­ket con­trol by seed com­pa­nies.

How­ever, govern­ment’s think­tank NITI Aayog re­cently vouched for wider use of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied seed va­ri­eties to re­vive agri­cul­ture growth in the coun­try. Ar­gu­ing that the key to green rev­o­lu­tion was high yield­ing crops, Niti Aayog said, “It is time for us to re­turn to al­low mas­sive re­search into im­prov­ing seed va­ri­eties in­clud­ing ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied one.”

In an ap­praisal doc­u­ment of 12th Five Year Plan, it said, “Else­where in the world, most no­tably the United States, GMO seeds have been in use for over two decades with no ad­verse ef­fect on ei­ther crops or those con­sum­ing the prod­uct of those seeds.”

“China has been far ahead of us in this re­gard. Our own ex­pe­ri­ence with Bt Cot­ton has been a suc­cess,” it said.

A high-level meet­ing to dis­cuss the Bill is ex­pected next month, said a se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cial

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