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Seed is an Essential Commodity; States should have Power to Regulate and Fix the Price

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

ASHA, an umbrella organization of scientists and associations working in the sustainable agriculture space said the proposed amendments to the Seed Bill should protect and uphold farmers’ rights to seeds and ensure that they are not exploited as seed consumers.

In a letter to Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, the association asked the Government to safeguard the nation’s unfettered control over something so vital for self-reliance in agriculture.

“One of the important components of any regulation should be seed price control as the sector attracts many players for the profit-making opportunities it presents, whereas the seed is an ‘Essential Commodity’ and should be treated as such,” they said.

The Seeds Bill acquires new importance and criticality in the context of a demand for repeal or amendments to the Essential Commodities Act (its agriculture-related provisions) gaining strength. All the empowering provisions of the Essential Commodities Act’s Seeds Control Order 1983, being used by governments to protect the interests of farmers, should, therefore, be reflected in any proposed Seeds, Bill.

The alliance said states should be vested with the power to fix the seed price and royalty component. “The ongoing battle between various state governments with Bt cotton seed companies showcases the need for such an authority to be incorporated into this proposed legislation. Royalties should not exceed 5 percent of the retail price. It should also ensure fair returns to seed-producing farmers,” it suggested.

If the Seeds Bill comes into force, the Seeds Control Order of 1983 will become obsolete. “So, it is important to incorporate all the powers that State governments have under the Order into the proposed Seeds Bill, including the ‘Power to Distribute Seed’ (compulsory licensing),” it said.

The alliance is opposed to the proposed registration system as envisaged in the current version of the Bill, which is “confusing with the term registration used for seed developer as well as the seller.”

It wants the Bill to mandate that the seed firms make the registration details public. The details should include geographical location, seed passport data and the results of local agronomic trials in different growing conditions. The seeds registered should be sent to the NBPGR (National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources) for retention in the National Gene Bank.

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