TOPIC: General Studies 3:
- Transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints
New Seed Bill 2019
- The National Seed Association of India (NSAI), 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.
Current The Seeds Act, 1966:
- Only covers “notified kinds or varieties of seeds”,regulation of quality, too, is limited to the seeds of varieties that have been officially notified.
- The provisions of The Seeds Act, 1966, apply only to certified seeds produced of notified varieties.
New Seeds Bill, 2019 :
- The new Seeds Bill, 2019 provides for compulsory registration of “any kind or variety of seeds” that are sought to be sold.
- Even hybrids/varieties of private companies will need to be registered.
- Their seeds would have to meet the minimum prescribed standards relating to germination, physical and genetic purity, etc.
- Breeders would be required to disclose the “expected performance” of their registered varieties “under given conditions”.
- If the seed of such registered kind or variety “fails to provide the expected performance under such given conditions”, the farmer “may claim compensation from the producer, dealer, distributor or vendor under The Consumer Protection Act, 1986”.
- The 1966 legislation was enacted at the time of the Green Revolution, when the country hardly had any private seed industry.
- The high-yielding wheat and paddy varieties, which made India self-reliant in cereals by the 1980s, were developed by the various ICAR institutes and SAUs.
- These public sector institutions have retained their dominance in breeding of wheat, paddy (including basmati), sugarcane, pulses, soybean, groundnut, mustard, potato, onion and other crops, where farmers largely grow open-pollinated varieties (OPV) whose grain can be saved as seed for re-planting.
- Over the last three decades or more, however, private companies and multinationals have made significant inroads, particularly into crops that are amenable to hybridisation.
- Today, the size of the private hybrid seeds industry is estimated at about Rs 15,000 crore.
Response of private seed industry
- Seed companies have welcomed the provision of compulsory registration of all varieties/hybrids, based on the results of multi-location trials for a prescribed period to establish their performance vis-à-vis the claims of the breeders concerned.
- This should help minimise the risk of farmers being sold seeds of low-quality genetics, especially by fly-by-night operators taking undue advantage of the “truthful labeling” and “self-certification” processes.
- The industry, however, wants the process of registration to be time-bound.
- Given the lack of manpower and infrastructure within the government system, the registration may be granted or refused on the basis of multi-location trials carried out by the breeder/applicant itself.
- But the industry’s main reservation is the provision for regulation of sale price “in emergent situations like scarcity of seeds, abnormal rise in prices, monopolistic pricing or profiteering”.
- The fact that this power of fixing sale price of seed has been given both to the Centre and state governments has added to their nervousness.
- Their contention is that seed accounts for not even a tenth of the total operational costs in most crops, despite the genetic information contained in it being the main determinant of grain yield and quality.
Connecting the dots:
- The new Seeds Bill is tilted against farmers’ interests and loaded in favour of seed companies. Critically Analyse.