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Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Context:

A senior parliamentarian has expressed concern over the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which is in the final stages of consultations in the Joint Parliamentary Committee.

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. Concerns with the Biological Diversity Amendment Bill 2021

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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.

Concerns with the Biological Diversity Amendment Bill 2021

  • Experts criticized the law for prioritizing intellectual property and commerce over the Act’s primary goal of safeguarding biological resources.
  • The bill imposed a heavy “compliance burden” and made it difficult to conduct collaborative research and investments, as well as to simplify patent application processes.
  • According to the bill’s text, it also wants to “extend the scope of levying access and benefit sharing with local populations, as well as for greater conservation of biological resources.”
  • The Bill intends to exclude registered AYUSH medical practitioners and those who have access to codified traditional knowledge, among others, from notifying State biodiversity boards before utilizing biological resources for specific reasons.
  • The bill would “reverse all of the recent attempts to implement the Biological Diversity Act.”
  • There was not a single “suggested amendment provision to safeguard, conserve, or strengthen the stake of local communities in the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity.”
  • The modifications will allow “biopiracy” and eliminate the necessity for AYUSH manufacturing enterprises to get permits.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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