Farmers & NGOs oppose proposed Seed Bill (15/8/2005)

Farmers & NGOs oppose proposed Seed Bill
Financial Express, August 15, 2005

NEW DELHI, AUG 14: - The Union government's Seed Bill has run into rough weather with farmers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) describing the proposed legislation as "anti-farmer".

They have called for the Bill's early withdrawal and asked for immediate notification of the Plant Varieties Protection & Farmer's Right (PVP&FR) Act, 2001, as this law "genuinely protects the interests of the farmers."

They also demanded framing of a law under which farmers would get compensation on account of crop failure and the estimates would be worked out by the village panchayats.

Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS), the ruling Congress party's farmers' outfit, has also opposed the legislation. The BKS executive chairman, Krishan Bir Choudhary, had earlier written to the the Congress party supremo, Sonia Gandhi, asking her to intervene.

Ms Gandhi chose to take up the issue at the government level rather than the political level. Using her position as the chairperson of the National Advisory Committee, Ms Gandhi asked the Union agriculture ministry to review the Bill. However, the Bill is already being reviewed by the House panel under the chairmanship of Prof Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajvadi party.

Speaking to FE, Dr Chaudhary said : "The Bill seeks to create corporate monopoly over agriculture. The farmers will be reduced to non-entities and will have to depend upon domestic seed companies and MNCs for supply of high priced seeds every year."

The Bill proposes compulsory registration of "all kinds and varieties of seeds." It says that the seeds exchanged among farmers will be treated as "misbranded". In this context, Dr Chaudhary said : "Farmers use 80% of farm-saved seeds. Farm-saved seeds are exchanged freely amongst them. Only 20% of the seeds for cultivation are supplied by the public and private sectors. This law will prevent the farmers from using farm-saved seeds.

"Not only that, the Article 21 says that no producer shall grow or organise production of seeds unless he is registered. Article 35 states that the seed inspector can take samples of any seed or any kind or variety. This is a deliberate attempt to enslave farmers and usher in inspector raj."

He said that according to Article 1(3)(b), the law shall apply to every producer of seeds except when the seed is produced by the farmer for his own use and not for sale. Article 43 empowers the central seed authority to regulate the exchange of farm-saved seeds. "These provisions in the proposed law are intended to terrorise farmers," he alleged.

Dr Chaudhary added that the law is silent about the compensation for crop failure to be paid to the farmers.

Bt cotton failed in many states and Mahyco-Monsanto has not paid any compensation to the farmers.

There should be a provision in the law for payment of compensation and the crop loss should be determined by the village panchayat.

He alleged that the government is taking a false pretext of fulfilling its obligations under the World Trade Organisation. The government has already fulfilled its obligations by amending the patent Act for patenting of 'novel seeds'. There is no further obligation. Rather, the WTO mandates regulate imports of diseased seeds by applying sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.

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