Changes to biodiversity law will weaken it

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Changes to biodiversity law will weaken it

  • Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh has expressed concern over the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021

  • It was introduced in Parliament in December 2021 by Union Environment Minister and was referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee.
  • The Bill amends the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 to simplify compliance requirements for domestic companies.

Key Features

Approval for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

  • The Act specifies that approval of National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is required before:
    • Applying for IPR involving biological resources obtained from India, or
    • Sealing of patent.
  • The Bill provides that approval will be required before the grant of IPR instead of before the application itself.
  • The Bill specifies distinct approval processes based on the origin of the entity.
  • Foreign entities will require approval from the NBA whereas domestic entities will be required to register with NBA.
  • However, domestic entities will need approval from NBA at the time of commercialisation of IPR.
  • The Bill also extends the approval requirement to IPR on associated knowledge.

Access to biological resources and associated knowledge

  • The Act requires prior approval or intimation to the regulatory authority based on the origin of the entity for obtaining biological resources occurring in India or associated knowledge.
  • The regulatory authorities under the Act for these purposes are National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) and State Biodiversity Boards (SBB).
  • The Bill amends the classification of entities, list of activities requiring intimation, and adds exemptions as listed below

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Benefit sharing

  • Under the Act, NBA is required to determine terms of benefit sharing while granting approvals for various activities.
  • Benefit sharing refers to requiring applicants to share monetary and non-monetary benefits with benefit claimants and local people.
  • The Act makes benefit sharing provisions applicable to research, commercial utilisation, as well as bio-survey and bio-utilisation for certain entities.
  • The Bill removes its applicability from research, and bio-survey and bio-utilisation.
  • The Bill adds that SBB will determine benefit sharing while granting approvals to domestic entities as per the regulations by NBA.

Offences and Penalties

  • Under the Act, offences include failing to take approval or providing prior intimation for various activities.
  • These offences are punishable with imprisonment of up to five years, or a fine, or both.
  • The Bill decriminalises the offences and makes offences punishable with a penalty between one lakh rupees and Rs 50 lakh.
  • Continuing contravention may attract an additional penalty of up to one crore rupees.

Concerns raised

Exemption given to AYUSH practitioners

  • Jairam Ramesh questioned the exemption given to AYUSH practitioners from the provisions of the law.
  • As per him, this exemption could open the law for abuse.
  • He is one of the members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee scrutinising the bill.

Artificial distinction between company and AYUSH practitioner

  • The Ministry is drawing a distinction between a registered AYUSH practitioner and a company by exempting the former from the Act.
    • AYUSH - Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy
  • This is an artificial distinction since the registered AYUSH practitioner may well be having informal links with a collective [family or otherwise], which may or may not have a company structure.
  • This may well open doors for large-scale exemptions.

Distinction between cultivated biodiversity and forest-based biodiversity

  • Ramesh also sounded an alarm on the distinction made in the law between cultivated biodiversity and forest-based biodiversity.
  • It is not at all clear what the basis for this distinction will be and whether it can be sustained in practice.
  • Diluting the authority of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA)
  • As per Mr Ramesh, multiple provisions of the Bill are aimed at diluting the authority of the National Biodiversity Authority.
  • The appointment of 16 ex-officio officers of the Government of India is one such.
  • Also, the new bill provides that the NBA approval is required only at the time of commercialisation of a patent and not at the time of application for a patent.


  • Analysts believe the NBA approval at the time of commercialisation will be reduced to a formality and will become a fait accompli.

Exam Track

Prelims Take Away

  • National Biodiversity Authority
  • Joint Parliamentary Committee