New Seed Bill – Impact on farmers and seed industry
M. PRABHAKAR RAO
President, National Seed Association of India
The new Seed Bill, while addressing challenges of protection of intellectual property, harmonization between various legislations especially seed legislation and PPVFR act, also attempts to create a national level paradigm for delivering quality seeds to improved plant varieties to farmers and thereby improving farm productivity and profitability. From a self-regulating quality assurance-based US legislative model, which has helped in building a vibrant Indian seed industry so far, the provisions of Seed Bill 2019 strongly reflect a move towards a European legislative model, which is based on both quality assurance and varietal registration with protection of farmer’s rights.
Indian seed industry is governed by Seed Act 1969 and Seed Rules 1968 which set standards for quality of seeds offered for sale. The Seed Act which was enacted during the era of green revolution was itself modelled on the Federal Seed Act 1939 of USA which prescribes compulsory labelling and quality standards for seeds of various crop species. The license requirements for sale of seeds is prescribed by the Seed Control Order 1983, which was enacted under the powers of Essential Commodities Act 1955. The other important legislations which directly impact seed industry are the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Act (PPVFRA) 2001, the Biodiversity Act 2002, Environment Protection Act 1986, Plant Quarantine Order 2003 and Legal Metrology Act 2009. The new policy on Seed Development 1988 and the National Seed Policy 2002 also gave a fillip to the growth of Indian seed industry, especially in promotion of private seed sector and seed exports.
The self-regulatory approach enshrined in the Indian act borrows from the US seed regulations and has served its purpose effectively by facilitating a vibrant seed industry in India. The Seed Act 1966 aligns well with the growing Indian market economy, where farmer or end-consumer’s preference determines the choice of a plant variety to be sown and the sales of its seeds. However, considering some of the challenges relating to sale of spurious seeds, sub-standard plant varieties offered for sales without adequate evaluation of their performance, the government of India introduced the Seed Bill in December 2004 in Parliament. The bill for replacement of Seed Act 1966 is with a key provision that all plant varieties whose seeds are offered for sales, need to be registered after performance evaluation. Further, if the registered variety fails to perform as per the expected standards, the bill provides for claim of compensation by farmers under Consumer Protection Act 1986. The bill upholds farmer’s rights to save and exchange seeds and also sell unlabeled seeds and is in harmony with PPVFRA.
Source : AGROSPECTRUM