The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) on last Wednesday sent additional comments on the Seed Bill 2019 through three letters to the DG ICAR Dr Trilochan Mohaparta, DDG Cotton Seeds and Horticulture Dr AK Singh and ADG Seed ICAR Dr DK Yadava.
The letters sought clarity on various definitions within the act such as “transgenic variety”, “agriculture”, “farmer” etc and also suggested additional definitions for the purpose of operational clarity for the industry. NSAI proposed to include “transgene”, “transgenic event” along with others definitions within the act.
These additions definitions were taken from previous government notifications or documents. The letters also comments on aspects of Farmers Rights, variety registration, and at the same time suggests that the government discriminate between minor and major offences and also create a national license authority for giving licences to seed companies working in many states.
Shri Prabhakar Rao, President NSAI, said, “Quality seeds have always been India’s lifeline. We have given our comments to ensure no gaps remain. We observed a serious lacuna in the definition of transgenic variety, which was not clear and also unscientific. We have suggested that transgenic variety means a plant variety with an agronomic trait expressed by a transgenic event and includes its seeds or planting material and also suggested that the government include scientific definitions of transgene and transgenic event based upon the government's own assessment. This is a very critical bill, as this affects over all Indians. No decision should be made in haste, and hence we have sent additional comments for the government.”
After the ‘Green Revolution’, India was quick to introduce the Seed Act 1966 as the first act to govern matters of seed and seed quality. It was modeled on the US legislation and aided by a later enactment of the Seed Rules 1968, which were also developed with the collaboration of the USDA.
The Act has served well in making the Indian Seed Industry vibrant and competitive to serve the interests of the farmers.
Our current legislative framework was inspired by the US systems where the variety registration is left to the discretion of the developer, while the new bill looks towards Europe to be her lodestar and define parameters and procedures for the release of new varieties.
Addressing the issues of farmers’ rights and variety registration Executive Director NSAI Shri RK Trivedi said, “"The definitions of Farmers' rights given in the PPVFRA may be applied in the seed bill also. The variety registration process should be simple and trial results of the R&D based seed companies should also be considered for registration of varieties."
Some of the salient features resembling the EU in the new bill are compulsory registration of seed varieties based on VCU (value for cultivation and use) evaluation and licensing of seed producers and seed processors.
There are also provisions for price control in the event of an emergency, monopolization or profiteering. Indra Shekhar Singh, program director for Policy and Outreach said. “India has 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 her farmers, and would caution the government of those who want UPOV to enter India through this bill. We wouldn’t this new bill to create a monopoly or loot our farmers.
We want a seed bill that serves national interest of India.”