Agricultural Biosecurity Bill, 2013
The inflow of pests/diseases of plants and animals into countries through imports is considered one of the biggest threats to diversity, leading to huge economic losses. All of you must know that the weed Parthenium hysterophorous, called Gajar Ghas is a highly prevalent invasive species in India. This species is originally a native to the American Tropics and it was introduced in India by the contaminated PL-480 wheat, which used to come to us from USA as food support once upon a time in 1950s and 1960s. Similar weeds are Phalaris minor (guli danda) and Lanatana camara have got established in the country via the same ways.
Against this backdrop, On March 11, 2013, the Agricultural Biosecurity Bill, 2013 has been introduced in Lok Sabha. The Agricultural Biosecurity Bill aims bring all aspects of plant, animal and marine protection and quarantine under a high powered statutory body Agricultural Biosecurity Authority with adequate powers.
Here are some important observations:
Objectives of the Bill
- A better regime of quarantining and controlling pests and even “exotic species”.
- To cover four sectors of agricultural insecurity viz. plant health, animal health, living aquatic resources (like fisheries) and agriculturally important micro-organisms.
Proposed Agricultural Biosecurity Authority of India
- To be established via the proposed act at Faridabad.
- To be headed by a Director General, appointed by the central government.
- Comprises experts in plant and animal pests and diseases, and representatives of various ministries and organisations.
- Regulation of the import and export of plants, animals and related products
- Prevention of the introduction of quarantine pests from outside India
- Implementation of the post-entry quarantine measures.
- It can issue directions to importers and exporters of such products for the discharge of its functions.
- No person shall import any plant, animal, and plant or animal products in contravention of notifications or guidelines issued by the Authority.
- Exceptions shall be provided to those imports that are issued permits by the Authority, and imports with sanitary or phytosanitary (relating to the health of plants) certificates issued by the respective authority in the country of origin and the country of re-export.
- Exports of the above products shall not be allowed except in cases where sanitary or phytosanitary certificates have been issued by an officer of the authority. However, such certificates shall not be necessary if the country of destination does not require it.
- The Customs Act, 1962 or other laws in force, that prohibit the import of certain customs and goods shall also apply to those pests, plants and animals, which require permits or are prohibited by the Authority.
- If an officer has reason to believe that any product was imported into India in contravention of the Act, the officer may require the holder to remove the product from India within a period of thirty days. If the holder fails to do so, the officer may seize such a product from him and remove or destroy it.
- The Authority may award a reasonable compensation to a person for loss or damage to non-infested plants, animals or related products incurred by him as a result of any sanitary or phytosanitary measures.
Control of quarantine pest
- No person shall possess, move, grow, raise, culture, breed or produce any plant, animal and related products if he has reason to believe that such a product is or may be carrying a quarantine pest.
- A person shall be responsible for providing information immediately when he becomes aware of the existence of quarantine pests or plant or animal diseases in an area.
- The Authority may notify any pest to be a quarantine pest. It can also notify an area to be a controlled area if it suspects or determines that the area is infested or infected with a quarantine pest.
- When an area is notified to be controlled, the Authority shall communicate the quarantine measures that the state government shall implement. Such measures shall include the treatment or disposal of plants, animals, their prohibition or control and other measures.
- If the state government fails to take measures in a controlled area, then the Authority can take necessary steps for the eradication or containment of the quarantine pest. The state government shall reimburse the costs incurred for such purposes.
- On the recommendation of the Authority, Central government can declare a biosecurity emergency in an area in case of an outbreak, distribution, or spreading of a pest or organism, which has the potential to cause a significant loss to biosecurity.
- Such declaration shall cease to have effect after six months unless it is revoked earlier.
- During the biosecurity emergency, the centre may give directions to the Authority for managing or eradicating the organism due to which the emergency has been declared.
- Authority may notify a scheme for the management or eradication of such an organism, with the prior approval of the central government.
Agricultural Biosecurity Fund
- The bill proposes to establish a Agricultural Biosecurity Fund, in which the money obtained by the authority as for purposes specified in the Act will be credited and will be utilized therefrom. The authority can also borrow funds from any source through the issue of bonds and debentures to discharge its functions. However, to raise such funds, the authority needs prior consent of the central government.
National Organization for international Collaboration
The Authority shall act as the national organisation to discharge obligations under various international conventions such as the International Plant Protection Convention. It shall provide information related to the import, export and technical requirements for plants, plant products and other objects, to similar international, regional or other organisations, free of charge or on a reciprocal basis.
Thus, Bill aims to establish an authority to biosecure global trade in farm items. The integrated national biosecurity system thus established will be covering plant, animal and marine issues to combat threats of bio-terrorism from pests and weeds. Such a system would not only increase the national capacity to protect human health and agricultural production, it would also equip the country to meet obligations under several trade and sanitary agreements in food and agricultural products.