Bill seeking to encourage cultivation of medicinal plants in LS

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NEW DELHI: A bill which seeks to reduce the pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging cultivation of such plants and facilitate fast-tracking of research, patent application process and transfer of research results, was introduced in Lok Sabha on Thursday.

The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021, was introduced by Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav amid din created by the Opposition over the Lakhmpur Kheri violence issue.

According to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill, the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, was enacted to provide for the conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources and knowledge.

The Act seeks to fulfil India’s obligations under the Convention of Biological Diversity and Nagoya Protocol on “access and benefit sharing” and to ensure that the benefits derived from the use of biological resources and associated traditional knowledge are shared in a fair and equitable manner among the indigenous and local communities.

The law also provides for a decentralised three-tiered mechanism comprising the National Biodiversity Authority, state biodiversity boards or union territory biodiversity councils, as the case may be, and biodiversity management committees.

Each biodiversity management committee prepares ‘people’s biodiversity registers’ which keep a record of all flora and fauna including details of traditional knowledge available in their region.

The Act provides a mechanism for accessing and sharing of biological or genetic resources, and fair and equitable benefits arising from it with biodiversity management committees.

The National Biodiversity Authority, state biodiversity boards or union territory biodiversity councils, and biodiversity management committees are inter-connected and ensure access and benefit sharing while accessing biological resources for research, patents, transfer of results and commercial utilisation of biological resources.

“In this background, concerns were raised by stakeholders representing Indian system of medicine sector, seed sector, industry sector and research sector urging to simplify, streamline and reduce compliance burden in order to encourage conducive environment for collaborative research and investments, simplify patent application process, widen the scope of levying access and benefit sharing with local communities and for further conservation of biological resources,” the statement of objects and reasons of the bill read.

Against this background, the amendment bill seeks to reduce the pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging cultivation of medicinal plants and encourage Indian system of medicine.

It also proposes to facilitate fast-tracking of research, patent application process, transfer of research results “while utilising the biological resources available in India without compromising the objectives of United Nation Convention on Biological Diversity and its Nagoya Protocol.”

The bill also seeks to decriminalise certain provisions and help bring more foreign investments in the chain of biological resources, including research, patent and commercial utilisation, “without compromising the national interest.” (PTI)