Biological Diversity Bill
- The Biological Diversity Amendment Bill 2021, introduced in the Lok Sabha, exempts Ayush practitioners from the ambit of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
- It facilitates access to biological resources and traditional knowledge by the Indian traditional medicine sector.
- The legal experts are concerned about the Biological Diversity Amendment Bill 2021.
- Legal experts have expressed concerns that easing the norms for the sector could be detrimental to ecology and go against the principle of sharing commercial benefits with indigenous communities.
Biological Diversity Amendment Bill 2021
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 was enacted for the conservation of biological diversity and fair, equitable sharing of the monetary benefits from the commercial use of biological resources and traditional knowledge.
Wild medicinal plants:
- It seeks to reduce the pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants;
- The bill focuses on regulating who can access biological resources and knowledge and how access will be monitored.
- It exempts Ayush practitioners from intimidating biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources or knowledge;
- It is a huge move because the Ayush industry benefits greatly from biological resources in India.
- The role of state biodiversity boards has been strengthened and better clarified in the bill.
Research and offences:
- It facilitates fast-tracking of research, simplify the patent application process, decriminalises certain offences;
- 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.
- To bring more foreign investments in biological resources, research, patent and commercial utilisation, without compromising the national interest.
Reasons for amendment
Provide conducive environment:
- According to the bill, concerns were raised by Ayush medicine, seed, industry and research sectors urging the government to simplify, streamline and reduce the compliance burden to provide for a conducive environment for collaborative research and investments.
Patent application process:
- They also sought to simplify the patent application process, widen the scope of access and benefit-sharing with local communities.
- In most cases, this is a certain percentage of the sale price.
Biological Diversity Act, 2002
- The Act was introduced to achieve the objectives of United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), 1992.
- The Act covers conservation, use of biological resources and associated knowledge occurring in India for commercial or research purposes or for the purposes of bio-survey and bio-utilisation.
- It provides a framework for access to biological resources and sharing the benefits arising out of such access and use.
- The Act also includes in its ambit the transfer of research results and application for intellectual property rights (IPRs) relating to Indian biological resources.
- Any offence under the Act is cognizable and non-bailable.
- The act envisaged a three-tier structure to regulate the access to biological resources:
- The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA)
- The State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs)
- The Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs)
Benefit sharing provisions:
- Ayush companies have been seeking relaxation of the benefit-sharing provisions.
- A case in point is the case relating to 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.
- Challenging the board’s notice, the company filed a writ petition before the Uttarakhand high court in December 2016 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."