Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Discussion on Seeds Bill, 2004

Pawar convenes meeting for consensus on Seeds Bill

Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has convened a meeting of "concerned MPs and VIPs'' to evolve a consensus on the controversial Seeds Bill, 2004, which is coming up for consideration and passage in the upper House during the monsoon session of Parliament.

More than 20 amendments have been moved on the Bill. Among the prime movers are M.S. Swaminathan (nominated), D. Raja (CPI), M.V. Mysoora Reddy (TDP) and former member Penumalli Madhu (CPI-M).

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah, Agriculture Minister N. Raghuveera Reddy and the State Congress have also expressed their reservations on certain provisions in the Bill. They too have been invited to Wednesday's meeting. Mr. Reddy is likely to attend. The most contentious issues on which the government has not agreed are about domestic certification of foreign certified seeds, raising compensation to farmers for seed failure, regulation of seed prices and royalty thereon, regulation of genetically modified seeds and compensation to non-GM farmers if their fields are contaminated and raising the quantum of penalty for seed failure.

The MPs want the burden of proof for failure of a seed to be on the seed developer, distributor, vendor and seed company, not on the farmer. For the amendment that says that the seed certification agency in the foreign country should be recognised only if the seed certified by it is tested on Indian soil, the government says that this would be governed by the internationally agreed system of certification.

On the amendment on price regulation of seeds so that farmers get seeds at an affordable price, the government maintains that the intention of the Bill is to regulate quality of seeds not prices. The best way to check prices is to introduce competition and to allow "market forces'' to play.

On the amendment to hold the seed developer responsible and accountable for contamination of non-GM farmers field, the government holds that the Bill provides for failure of seed only and other considerations come under the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee and the Environmental Protect Act, 1986.

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