Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill
- Members of the opposition party have criticised the provisions of the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that is currently being reviewed by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC).
About the Act:
- The Biological Diversity Act of 2002 was enacted to give effect to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which aims for a sustainable, fair, and equitable distribution of benefits emerging from the use of biological resources and traditional knowledge.
- It does so by establishing a three-tier system that includes a National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at the national level, State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) at the state level, and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at the local level.
- The BMCs’ principal responsibility is to create a People’s Biodiversity Register that documents local biodiversity and associated knowledge.
Why there was an amendment?
- Traditional Indian medicine practitioners, the seed industry, industry and researchers complained that the Act imposed a large “compliance burden” and made it difficult to conduct collaborative research and investments, as well as simplify patent application processes.
- The Bill also wants to “extend the scope of levying access and benefit sharing with local communities, as well as for greater conservation of biological resources,” according to the text.
- The bill intends to exempt certified AYUSH medical practitioners and those with codified traditional knowledge, among others, from notifying state biodiversity boards in advance of exploiting biological resources for specific purposes.
What are the apprehensions about?
- The Environment Ministry made a distinction between an AYUSH practitioner and a firm, exempting the former from the Act. He called this a “artificial distinction,” claiming that nothing precluded a certified AYUSH practitioner from having informal ties to a business entity.
- These prepared the ground for possible “legal abuse.”
- Several elements of the Bill seek to weaken the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), particularly the clause adding 16 ex-officio officers to the Centre.
- The requirement that firms obtain NBA clearance only at the time of commercialization, rather than while seeking for a patent, was a source of worry.
- With the exception of a few states, there was little information on the money collected from firms and traders in exchange for access to and benefit-sharing from the use of traditional knowledge and resources.
- Despite assurances, it was unclear whether firms had paid communities. Only one business had agreed to pay the Irula Cooperative in Tamil Nadu — traditional knowledge holders of the procedure of collecting snake venom used for pharmaceutical products — but even that commitment had not been honoured.
Source: THE HINDU.
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