People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 08

February 21, 2010

Protect India�s Sovereign Rights over Biological Resources


THROUGH a statement issued from New Delhi on February 9, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has strongly condemned the clandestine move to drop 190 plants from the protection of the Biological Diversity Act 2002. The move subverts the Act�s objective of conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of utilisation of genetic resources. This also seriously compromises India�s sovereign rights over the biological resources of the country, guaranteed under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, that are meant to be protected by the Act by restricting intellectual property rights for any invention based on biological resources obtained from India.

The AIKS has come to know that the ministry of environment�s notification on October 26, 2009 declares that the provisions of the Biological Diversity Act 2002 will no longer apply to 190 biological resources, including 47 medicinal plants or crops, 28 spices, 40 fruits, 51 vegetables, 14 flower and aromatic plants as well as 10 plantation crops. Coconut, coffee, black pepper, turmeric, cardamom,  tamarind, brinjal, onion, garlic, neem, vacha, tulasi, pippali, arrowroot, peepul, banyan, indigo, vinca, cinnamon, kokum, curry leaves, chillies, nutmeg, coriander, black jeera, mango, lemon, guava, tomato, potato, mint and areca nut are some of the items included in the list.

The ministry of environment and forests has yet again taken such a decision without any consultation whatsoever with the state governments and state biodiversity boards. This the AIKS statement said is in contravention of the duties stipulated for the central government in Chapter IX of the Biodiversity Act. Nor has the parliament been taken into confidence while taking a decision of such far-reaching consequences for biodiversity. It is a dangerous decision, given the fact that many of the plant species are protected under the Wildlife Act as they face extinction. Sarpagandha or rauwolfia serpentine, an endangered species, has now been taken out of the purview of the Act. The minister�s assertion that these 190 items were removed from the purview of the act to facilitate exports is untenable and the timing of such a withdrawal merely two weeks after announcing a consultation process on Bt Brinjal is cause for suspicion.

The AIKS also says the exemption notification is also seriously flawed as it does not specifically state the particular purpose for which it is excluded. The organisation has therefore demanded that the government must come clean and place all facts before the public. The Kisan Sabha statement said it would not allow the government to sell-out and compromise our biological resources to suit the interests of the MNCs.