Washington, Feb 6 : A group of Indian botanists have said that the country's biodiversity laws are so stringent that they are stifling research in the sector.
The group includes K. D. Prathapan from Kerala Agriculture University and Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Bangalore.
According to a report in ENN, the scientists have said that India's "draconian" rules on free exchange of biological samples could "totally isolate Indian biodiversity researchers and is akin to a self-imposed siege on scientists in the country".
India's biodiversity rules, established in 2002, do not permit Indian scientists to deposit their specimens in international museums and stipulate that specimens must be kept in selected national repositories.
According to Prathapan and colleagues, quality research involves extensive collaboration among specialists and institutions across continents. "And in taxonomy, which involves classifying samples, accurate identification of a plant or animal often requires comparison with closely related specimens that may be present in different countries," they said.
They further argue that depositing specimens in different international institutions would act as "an insurance against loss of specimens in India".
The team of botanists have also said that though preventing biopiracy and commercial exploitation of biological resources is a legitimate concern, it is equally important to protect the interests of scientists engaged in fundamental research.
They added that fears that the government has about India's intellectual property rights being compromised if the samples are used commercially are baseless and irrational.
The scientists hope the Indian government will follow the example of Brazil, which repealed its initially tough rules for biological specimens after protests by scientists.
But, according to M. Sanjappa, director of the Botanical Survey of India in Kolkata, stringency is required to fight biopiracy in the country.
"The law itself need not be changed for research. Instead one can enter into memoranda of understanding with individual countries of scientific groups," he said.