Agri bio-security Bill tabled in Parliament

Written by feBureau | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 12 2013, 09:15am hrs
In a bid to screen imported agricultural products for diseases or pests and protect bio-diversity, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Monday introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha for establishing an authority that will ensure bio-secure global trade.

The Agricultural Bio-security Bill, 2013, intends to put in place a better regime of quarantining and controlling pests and even 'exotic species' that are finding their way into India.

The inflow of pests or diseases of plants and animals into countries through imports is considered one of the biggest threats to diversity, leading to huge economic losses. For example, weeds like Parthenium, Phalaris minor and Lanatana camara have already got established in the country, the Bill stated.

The bill also points out that advances in genetic engineering leading to the introduction and release of living modified oranisms or their products (genetic modified organisms) require proper assessement and management. Even climate change has the potential to alter the habit of known pests and even cause introduction of new pests.

The proposed legislation aims to bring together plant, animal and marine protection and quarantine advisers under a high powered body with adequate powers, an official statement said. The authority's mandate will cover four sectors of agricultural biosecurity: plant health, animal health, living aquatic resources (like fisheries) and agriculturally important micro-organisms, it said.

The proposed law is set to ensure farm bio-security of the country for common benefit and for safeguarding the agricultural economy.

In the third meeting of the Agriculture Coordination Committee held in February, 2008, it was agreed that a national bio-security system covering plant, animal and marine issues be set up.

Subsequently, a core group was constituted by the agriculture ministry in April 2008. It recommended establishing the National Agricultural Biosecurity System, which would require a new legislation, something far more relevant to the current context. The need for an autonomous authority on the lines of the Food Safety and Standards Authority and other models of integrated bio-security organisations in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and US was mooted.

The core group had also pointed out that the existing Destructive Insects and Pests Act, 1914, and the Live-stocks Importation Act, 1898, are 'age old' legislation and are subsidiary to the Customs Act, 1962,which does not give direct powers to the quarantine officers to deport or destroy or confiscate the consignment under the Indian Penal Code.

Earlier, the National Commission on Farmers had recommended developing a National Agricultural Bio-security System, which is an integration of plant, animal and fish management system on bio-security based on risk analysis and management.