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Will the draft Seed Bill 2019 undermine farmers’ rights?

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Google Oneindia News

New Delhi, Nov 23: The Centre may introduce the Seeds Bill 2019 in the upcoming winter session of the Parliament. The Bill, expected to replace the Seeds Act 1966, has been pending since 2004.

Among other things, the draft bill aims to regulate quality, production, distribution, sale, import and export of seeds.

Will the draft Seed Bill 2019 undermine farmers’ rights?

It also seeks to provide a mechanism to register every seed variety into a national seed register.

In addition, the Bill contains provisions for capping the price of particular seed varieties by the Central and state governments.

The Bill exempts farmers from the requirement of compulsory registration. 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 (as required by registered seeds). However, farmers cannot sell any seed under a brand name.

If a registered variety of seed fails to perform to expected standards, the farmer can claim compensation from the producer or dealer. The Bill provides for setting up a compensation committee that shall hear and decide these cases. It also provides for an appellate mechanism to be set up by notification.

The penalty for contravening any provision of the Act or selling misbranded or substandard seeds is a fine ranging between Rs 25,000 and Rs 1 lakh. The penalty for giving false information may incur a prison term for upto a year and/or a fine of upto Rs 5 lakh.

Key Issues and Analysis after the Official Amendments

The Bill does not specify whether the committees will be set up at the national, regional, state or district level; that decision would determine whether farmers can easily access the compensation mechanism.

Every seed that is sold needs to be registered. It is not clear whether the registration is an exclusive right (similar to a patent). That is, whether a producer is permitted to produce seeds registered by a different producer.

There is no provision for tracing back faulty seeds. This is in contrast to the provision of food articles in The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

That Act requires every person in the value chain to keep track of the preceding person, so that a faulty lot can be withdrawn.

The financial memorandum does not include the cost required to establish central and state seed testing laboratories and for employing seed analysts and inspectors.

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