Seeds Bill 2004

Seeds Bill 2004 & Contemporary Issues:

In response to the changes that have taken place in the seeds sector, the existing Seeds Act, 1966, is proposed to be replaced by a suitable legislation to:

  1. Create a facilitative climate for the growth of the seed industry
  2. Enhance seed replacement rates for various crops,
  3. Boost the export of seeds and encourage import of useful germplasm,
  4. Create a conducive atmosphere for the application of frontier sciences in varietal development and for enhanced investment in research and development.

The highlights of this bill are as follows:

  1. The Seeds Bill, 2004 aims to regulate the quality of seeds sold, and replaces the Seeds Act, 1966.
  2. All varieties of seeds for sale have to be registered. The seeds are required to meet certain prescribed minimum standards.
  3. The Bill does not restrict the farmer’s right to use or sell his farm seeds and planting material, provided he does not sell them under a brand name. All seeds and planting material sold by farmers will have to conform to the minimum standards applicable to registered seeds.
  4. If a registered variety of seed fails to perform to expected standards, the farmer can claim compensation from the producer or dealer under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  5. The Bill permits self certification of seeds by accredited agencies and allows the central government to recognize certification by foreign seed certification agencies.
  6. Every seed producer and dealer, and horticulture nursery has to be registered with the state government

This bill proposes to establish a Central Seed Committee (CSC), which may appoint as many Sub-Committees as needed. One of the sub-committees that would be established is the Registration Sub-Committee, which shall maintain a National Register of Seeds for all varieties of seed. Every state government would establish a State Seed Committee which would have an advisory role. The CSC may, after consulting with state governments, establish a State Seed Certification Agency in the respective states.

What is the Current Status?

The Government had introduced the Seeds Bill in the Rajya Sabha in December 2004. The Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, which recommended several modifications to the Bill. Accordingly, the Government moved the official amendments to the Seeds Bill 2004 twice, first in December 2008 and then in February 2009 but it was not listed for business in the House. The bill has not been introduced in the latest session of the parliament and now (reportedly) keeping in view the widespread concerns over certain provisions in the Seed Bill, the Union Government has decided to defer its introduction in the recently concluded Parliament session.

What is the Key Concern?

The Bill though protects the right of a farmer to save, use, exchange, share or sell his farm seeds and planting material, yet the farmer cannot sell seeds or planting material under a brand name. Also, all seeds sold by farmers need to conform to the minimum standards regarding germination, physical purity and genetic purity applicable to registered seeds. The key issue is that all farmers may not be able to conform to these standards. The antagonists to this bill say that seeds are the only things which a farmer can grow independently and this bill may create the problem for the farmers. This bill is a direct violation of the farmer’s fundamental rights to produce, use, save, sell or exchange own seeds, and thus takes away the rights given by Plant varieties and Farmer’s rights Protection act.

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