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Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Context:

The Rajya Sabha passed the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill 2021 about a week after it was cleared by the Lok Sabha. The Act aims to conserve biodiversity, promote its sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits that arise therein.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021
  2. The need for amending Biodiversity Act 2002
  3. Significance and Criticism of the Biodiversity Bill

Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021

  • The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill 2021 seeks to amend the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 in order to fulfil India’s obligations under the Convention of Biological Diversity and Nagoya Protocol.
  • The Bill seeks to reduce the pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants.
  • The Bill proposes to exempt AYUSH practitioners from intimating biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources or knowledge.
  • The Bill also facilitates fast-tracking of research, simplify the patent application process, decriminalises certain offences.
  • The Bill brings more foreign investments in biological resources, research, patent and commercial utilisation, without compromising the national interest.
  • The bill focuses on regulating who can access biological resources and knowledge and how access will be monitored.
  • The Bill has also clarified and strengthened the role of state biodiversity boards.
  • In the direction of Decriminalization, Violations of the law related to access to biological resources and benefit-sharing with communities, which are currently treated as criminal offences and are non-bailable, have been proposed to be made civil offences.

The need for amending Biodiversity Act 2002

  • People from AYUSH medicine urged the government to simplify, streamline and reduce the compliance burden to provide for a conducive environment for collaborative research and investments.
  • They also sought to simplify the patent application process, widen the scope of access and benefit-sharing with local communities.
  • Ayush companies have been seeking relaxation of the benefit-sharing provisions.
  1. Case study: Divya Pharmacy founded by Swami Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna in Uttarakhand. The Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) sent a notice to Divya Pharmacy in 2016 stating that the company was in violation of the Biodiversity Act for using biological resources from the state for its ayurvedic formulations, without intimating the board and that it was liable to pay an access and benefit-sharing fee.
    1. The company filed a writ petition in the Uttarakhand high court challenging the powers of the biodiversity board to determine benefit-sharing by Indian companies.
    2. The court in 2018 upheld the powers of the biodiversity board in its judgement.
    • Under the Biodiversity Act 2002, national and state biodiversity boards are required to consult the biodiversity management committees while taking any decision relating to the use of biological resources.

Significance and Criticism of the Biodiversity Bill

Significance of the Bill:
  • Aims to enhance the “ease of doing business” and support the AYUSH industry (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy).
Criticism of the Bill:
  • Exempts “codified traditional knowledge” and the AYUSH industry from benefit sharing, depriving local communities of benefits from biological resources.
  • Lack of clear definition for “codified traditional knowledge” may lead to potential misuse.
  • Allows SBBs to represent BMCs for benefit sharing terms, potentially marginalizing BMCs.
  • Proposed amendments introduced while the Act is not fully implemented.
  • Lack of transparency in money received from ABS (Access and Benefit Sharing) and sharing with local communities.

-Source: The Hindu


May 2024
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