The Bill, revived by this government after 10 years in November 2014, was put on hold in 2015 after the backlash against an enabling provision for genetically modified (GM) crop .
“The Bill is important for the sector as it will bring in competition among players and promote healthy crops. Hence, we may revive the Bill soon,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
A final proposal was readied based on feedback and was submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat before it was put on hold. Among the proposed amendments is a clause to ensure uniformity in laws relating to the import and export of seeds and the use of GM seeds with existing national regulations
The Bill requires every seller of seeds (including farmers) to meet certain minimum standards. The Bill replaces the Seeds Act, 1966. Under the Bill, all varieties of seeds for sale have to be registered. If a registered variety of seed fails to perform up to expected standards, the farmer can claim compensation from the producer or dealer.
A compensation committee shall hear and decide these cases. The Bill also provides for an appellate mechanism to be set up by notification. Besides, the Bill also exempts farmers from the requirement of compulsory registration while prescribing huge penalty for contravening any provision of the Act for those selling misbranded or substandard seeds.
However, government’s think tank NITI Aayog recently vouched for wider use of genetically modified seed varieties to revive agriculture growth in the country. Arguing that the key to green revolution was high yielding crops, Niti Aayog said, “It is time for us to return to allow massive research into improving seed varieties including genetically modified one.”
In an appraisal document of 12th Five Year Plan, it said, “Elsewhere in the world, most notably the United States, GMO seeds have been in use for over two decades with no adverse effect on either crops or those consuming the product of those seeds.” “China has been far ahead of us in this regard. Our own experience with Bt Cotton has been a success,” it said.