At present, adulteration of compost seeds and pesticides remains a big issue among farmers, a campaign is being run in many places about this. It is noteworthy that Indian farmers face a lot of losses due to adulteration of compost seeds and pesticides. In view of this fact, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has drafted the Seed Bill 2019. It is expected that it will be presented soon in the current winter session of Parliament. The main objective of this draft is to regulate the quality of seeds sold to the farmers and to facilitate the production and supply of these seeds to the farmers.
Major provisions of the draft
- According to experts, this is an important legislation to ensure supply of modern and high quality seeds to farmers which will help them to increase their productivity and profitability.
- Seed Committee formed
In the draft Seed Bill, the Central Government has been entrusted with the responsibility of restructuring the Central Seed Committee which will be responsible for the effective implementation of its provisions.
Registration of different varieties of seeds
Vendors will have to register all the seeds present for sale and also meet certain prescribed minimum standards.
Under the draft, farmers are exempted from obtaining registration for the varieties developed by them. However, if the farmer sells it for the purpose of obtaining commercial profit, then registration will be mandatory for him.
In addition, farmers are allowed to sow, exchange or sell their farm seeds and planting material. But they cannot sell any seeds under any brand name.
- Research-based companies
The draft clarifies the distinction between seed producer, seed processor and seed dealer for the purpose of licensing. However, there is no recognition of national level integrated seed companies with research and development (R&D) capabilities under the draft.
As per the provisions laid down in the draft, it is mandatory to obtain license or registration only for nurseries related to fruits. In addition, not all nurseries need to be registered.
- rate control
The Seed Bill draft empowers the government to intervene in pricing of selected varieties of seeds in case of contingency conditions like seed shortage, abnormal price increase, monopoly pricing, profiteering etc.
- Review of complaints
According to the draft, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 will be used to deal with various complaints regarding seeds in future.
History of seed regulation in India
- Historically, many regulations and policy frameworks have been used to control the Indian seed industry.
- Seeds Act (1966)
- Seeds (Control) Order (1983)
- New Seed Development Policy (1988)
- Essential Commodities Act 1955
- National Seed Policy (2002)
- All the above rules were passed to take care of seeds at all levels from production to marketing, so as to maintain the quality standards set by the Central Seed Committee constituted under the Seeds Act 1966.
- These laws are helpful in providing easy access to quality seeds and planting material to a common farmer and provide him a mechanism to approach the concerned authority for getting justice in the event of a fraud.
- In 2004, it was proposed to replace the Seeds Act (1966) through the Seed Bill, but due to several shortcomings, it could not be passed in Parliament. It is noteworthy that the Seed Bill 2019 draft attempts to address the shortcomings of the Seed Bill of 2004.
Seed Bill draft deficiencies and controversy
- Experts say that many of the provisions in this draft violate the provisions of the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmer Rights Act (PPVFR Act), 2001.
- He also believes that this draft is being brought against the interests of farmers and for maximum benefit to private companies.
- The Seed Bill draft emphasizes compulsory registration of seeds, while the PPVFR Act is based on voluntary registration of seeds.
- Under PPVFR Act, it was necessary to give the details of all the people who contributed for the creation of the seed variety including the farmers in all the applications for seed registration, but to get such information for the registration of seeds in the Seed Bill draft. There is no provision that will completely abolish the importance of farmers’ contribution to the origin of the seed variety.
- Being based on IPR, the PPVFR Act does not allow re-registration of seeds after the validity period whereas as per the recent Seed Bill draft, any private company can re-register the seeds multiple times even after the validity period. Significantly, due to this provision, many varieties of seeds will never be available for free use.
- Strict government control over seed prices has been an important demand of farmer organizations, but farmers are worried over the unclear provision in the recent Seed Bill draft regarding the regulation of seed prices. Experts say that these provisions are neither sufficient nor reliable.
- Farmers’ organizations have also been demanding an official body to regulate seed prices and royalties, because in its absence the seed companies set the prices of the seeds according to their convenience, causing considerable loss to the farmers.
- According to the PPVFR Act, if a farmer is harmed due to a registered seed variety, he can claim compensation before the PPVFR authority. Contrary to the PPVFR Act, the dispute will be settled according to the Consumer Protection Act 1986 in such a situation under the provisions of the recent Seed Bill draft.
- Many experts are of the opinion that consumer courts are not ideal and friendly institutions that farmers can contact.
Seed industry tips
The seed industry has also made the following recommendations to the government in relation to the draft Seed Bill:
- The seed registration process should be time bound.
- The provision of obtaining license or registration should not be limited to fruit nurseries but should be applied to all types of nurseries.
- The industry opposes any form of price control, as the industry believes that it may affect innovation.
- Agricultural production depends to a large extent on basic inputs like seeds and hence the production program will not be successful until the standards of purity and quality of the seed are followed. Therefore, it becomes very important to make laws for the regulation of seeds.
- At the national level, massive campaigns are needed to make the farmers aware of their rights and the existing seed laws.
- The Seed Bill draft should have mainly two objectives, first is to regulate the supply of seeds for the benefit of the farmers and secondly, regulation of seeds should not be an obstacle in the development of the industry.
- Its shortcomings should be removed after consulting with all parties related to the Seed Bill draft and it should be ensured that its benefits reach small farmers.
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