Biological Diversity Amendment Bill, 2021

Biological Diversity Amendment Bill, 2021

The government has presented the Biological Diversity Amendment Bill, 2021, which aims to make it easier for the Indian traditional medicine sector to acquire biological resources and traditional knowledge.

Biological Diversity Act, 2002:

The BDA was passed in 2002 to promote biological diversity protection and a fair and equitable distribution of monetary advantages derived from the commercial utilisation of biological resources and traditional knowledge. The fundamental goal of this law is to protect India’s rich biodiversity and accompanying knowledge from being exploited by foreigners. It uses a three-tier system of central and state boards, as well as local committees, to combat biopiracy and safeguard biological diversity and local growers.
The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs), and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) are all established under the Act. The NBA will have the legal authority of a civil court.

Nagoya Protocol

  • Benefits gained from the usage of biological resources must be shared fairly and equally among indigenous and local populations, according to the law.
  • When an Indian or foreign corporation or individual wants to access biological resources like therapeutic plants or knowledge about them, they must first get permission from the national biodiversity board.
  • The board can apply a benefit-sharing fee or royalty, as well as requirements, that require the corporation to share the monetary advantage from commercial use of these resources with local people who are working to preserve biodiversity in the area.

The proposed Biological Diversity Amendment Bill?

The Biological Diversity Amendment bill seeks to reduce the pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants.

The Biological Diversity bill:

  • Sharing of biological resources: Ayush practitioners are not required to notify biodiversity boards in order to access biological resources or knowledge (Vaids and Hakims)
  • Research promotion: Fast-tracking research and simplifying the patent application process are two benefits of research promotion.
  • Decriminalization: Certain offences are decriminalised.
  • Bring in more foreign investment: aims to attract more foreign investment in biological resources, research, patents, and commercialization without jeopardising national security.

Why we Need for the Biological Diversity Amendment Bill?

  1. Simplifying process: Ayush medical, seed, industrial, and research sectors have all expressed concerns about the procedure, urging the government to simplify and speed it.
  2. Easing compliance: They asked the government to lower the compliance burden in order to create a favourable climate for collaborative research and investment.
  3. Access and Benefit-sharing: It also aimed to simplify the patent application procedure, as well as expand the extent of access and benefit-sharing with local communities.
  4. Exemptions: Ayush practitioners have been exempted from the Act’s scope, which is a significant step because the Ayush business relies heavily on India’s biological resources.
  5. Certain offences: Violations of the law relating to benefit-sharing with communities, which are now recognised as criminal offences and are not punishable by imprisonment, have been proposed to be changed to civil offences.
  6. Imbibing the Nagoya Protocol: This measure aims to align domestic legislation with the 2010 Nayogya Protocol on ABS’s free prior informed consent requirements.

Criticisms of the Biological Diversity Amendment Bill

  1. There will be no consultation: The measure was introduced without first soliciting public input, as required by the pre-legislative consultative policy.
  2. No profit-sharing: The proposed amendment contains vague provisions to safeguard, conserve, or promote local communities’ stake in the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity.
  3. Commercialization: Activists claim that the revisions were made “exclusively to benefit” the AYUSH Ministry.
  4. Biopiracy loopholes: Under the bill, AYUSH manufacturing enterprises would no longer be required to get approvals.
  5. Ignoring Bio-utilization: Bio-utilization is not included in the bill, despite the fact that it is a key part of the Act. Leaving out bio use would leave out a slew of commercially motivated operations like characterisation, incentivization, and bioassay.
  6. Exotic plant cultivation: The bill exempts cultivated medical plants from the Act’s jurisdiction, although it’s nearly impossible to tell which species are cultivated and which are wild.
  7. De-licensing: This provision could allow large companies to evade the requirement for prior approval or share the benefit with local communities.

Access and Benefit-Sharing

India is a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing as well as the Convention on Biological Diversity. Benefits gained from the usage of biological resources must be shared fairly and equally among indigenous and local populations, according to the law.
When an Indian or foreign corporation or individual wants to access biological resources like therapeutic plants or knowledge about them, they must first get permission from the national biodiversity board. The board can apply a benefit-sharing fee or royalty, as well as requirements, that require the corporation to share the monetary advantage from the commercial use of these resources with local people who are working to preserve biodiversity in the area.

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