ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Biodiversity Bill

India is rich in bioresources but has no clear legislative framework to regulate access, use and rights over such resources. Will the Biodiversity Bill 2000, recently drafted, provide a sufficient framework for conserving biological diversity in India?

The Biodiversity Bill 2000, in its present form, has many flaws. The bill refers to The Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), 1992 but it ensures that the spirit of the Convention is not put into practice. According to Chapter II of the bill, regulation of biological diversity and knowledge associated with biological resources occurring in India are brought under the regulation of the proposed National Biodiversity Authority (NBA). This is totally unfair. This amounts to government control, read bureaucratic control, over knowledge. Much of the knowledge is in public domain and individuals, organisations, etc, acquire knowledge by research, experimentation, and observation and hence this knowledge cannot be brought under the purview of any authority, leave alone NBA. The definitions under the act are wide enough and the definition of biological resources under the act is as follows: (c) “biological resources” means plants, animals, and micro-organisms or parts thereof, their genetic material and by-products with actual or potential use or value but does not include human genetic material.

Under the bill, publication of papers or dissemination of knowledge should be as per guidelines issued by government. This means that even if you are working in a private research lab with no government funding, or a researcher who does not depend on government aid, the government, can have control over what you should publish, where you present the paper, etc. For example, if an Indian scientist were to publish a paper in a journal like Economic Botany, he might have to write it as per government guidelines. Moreover, much knowledge is already available in various forms and further knowledge is being created based on existing knowledge. This bill tries to regulate flow of knowledge in such a manner as to discourage the free flow of information. Even in the case of collaborative research projects, which are half way through or nearing completion, the bill is applicable, and the same can be held to be void if it is not consistent with the provisions of the bill. Such a regulatory authority has monopoly powers. The NBA is thus vested with powers that have far-reaching consequences. Instead, the bill could have exempted research agreements already concluded and could have described a mechanism to regulate agreements in future. Institutes have their own mechanisms for providing access and regulating access to bioresources, and Material Transfer Agreements are also being instituted by centres which have bioresources/germplasm. The better option would be to draw guidelines and give the centres/research institutes some flexibility.

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