- Suggestions to the Draft Bill
Suggestions to the Draft Seeds Bill 2019
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Recently, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare finalized the Draft Seeds Bill 2019. The Bill is aimed at ensuring supply of modern, high quality, cutting edge seed technologies to the farmers which will help them in enhancing their productivity and profitability. The Bill amends the the Seed Act 1966 and Seed Rules 1968.
In this regard, the seed industry has made certain observations to the government based on the draft of the Bill released by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Suggestions to the Draft Bill
Registration of seed varieties
Bill Provision: All varieties of seeds for sale have to be registered. The seeds are required to meet certain prescribed minimum standards.
Suggestion: Registration process should be time bound.
Exemption from compulsory registration
Bill Provision: Exempt farmers from obtaining registration for varieties developed by them. However, if the farmer sells such seeds for a monetary consideration that sale should be governed by the Act. This is in the interest of protecting the interests of farmers who buy seeds from such a farmer.
Moreover, Farmers are allowed to sow, exchange or sell their farm seeds and planting material without having to conform to the prescribed minimum limits of germination, physical purity and genetic purity. However, farmers cannot sell any seed under a brand name.
Suggestion: Pure export-oriented varieties must be exempt from registration to encourage custom production of seed in India which is undertaken by many companies.
Bill Provision: In the proposed Bill, there is a differentiation between the Seed Producer, Processor and the Seed Dealer for the purpose of licensing. However, there is no recognition of National Level Integrated Seed Companies with R&D capabilities, national-level variety evaluation system, seed production, testing and storage facilities etc.
Suggestion: There must be a system of accreditation of national level research-based companies with integrated facilities for research, product testing, data analytics, seed production, seed quality control, seed processing, farmer extension and marketing. These companies should be given a national license based on a thorough inspection done by a designated authority in the Central government.
Truthfully labelled seeds
Bill provision: Currently, a large percentage of seed is sold under a self-certification programme called truthfully labelled (TL) seeds. The Bill keeps certification voluntary.
Suggestion: TL category of self-certification should be make mandatory and should continue, because TL has facilitated the supply of high-quality seeds to the farmer, especially in the last 30 years.
Bill Provision: Proposes registration/licenses for seed companies, seed processing plants, seed producers, seed dealers and nurseries.
Suggestion: This should apply to all nurseries and not just fruit nurseries as proposed.
Bill Provision: Give powers to the government to fix prices of selected varieties in case of ‘emergent’ situations.
Suggestion: The industry is opposed to any kind of price control, as it will stifle innovation and result in a scale back of research investments as happened in the case of cotton.
Review of complaints:
Bill Provision: Proposes to use the Consumer Protection Act to deal with complaints of non-performance of seed.
Suggestion: Seed performance is dependent on several agro-climatic and biological factors and is not always related to the quality of the seed. This aspect is to be kept in mind while reviewing a complaint.
All offences are not criminal:
Bill provision: It differentiate the agronomic performance of the seed, the physical quality of the seed and the supply of spurious seed.
Suggestion: Differentiate between minor offences, unintended offences and major offences made intentionally. Do not use criminal proceedings for all offences. There should be a provision for compounding of minor offences.
- 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 modelled on the US legislation and aided by a later enactment of the Seed Rules 1968, which were also developed with the collaboration of the US.
- In general, the seed industry has been governed by the Seed Act (1966), Seed Rules (1968), Seed (Control) Order (1983), New Policy on Seed Development (1988), Plants, Fruits & Seeds (Regulation of Import into India), 1989, the PPV & FR Act (2001), and the Essential Commodities Act including Seeds (1955) and National Seed Policy (2002), all aimed at supplying quality seeds and planting material to the farmer.
- The Seed Bill (2004) was proposed to replace the Seed Act (1966), however, owing to several shortcomings, it was never passed.
It is evident that the seed industry has been at the centre of the significant advances made in agriculture in the last four decades and will continue to do in the years to come.
Given such importance of seed industry, government should instantly make modifications, after weighing the respective outcome, in the Draft Seed bill.
Overall, the seed law should have the twin objective of regulating the supply of seeds for the benefit of the farmer and, at the same time, enable the development of the seed industry.