People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIV

No. 17

April 25, 2010

 

SEEDS BILL AMENDMENTS

 

AIKS Opposes Moves to Harm Peasant Interests

 

IN a statement issued from New Delhi on April 19, the All India Kisan Sabha has pointed out that the amendments proposed by the agriculture minister to the seed bill seriously compromises the rights of the peasantry to grow, sow, re-sow, save, use, exchange, share or sell their farm seeds and planting material. The bill in the present form will lead to unrestricted commercialisation of varieties in the public domain, including farmersí varieties. The AIKS has said the agriculture minister has disregarded the substantive amendments proposed by the standing committee on agriculture and resorted merely to cosmetic changes, and that the minister is seeking to push through a legislation that will jeopardise the lives of millions of peasants and put agriculture entirely at the mercy of MNC agri-businesses. The move clearly has to be seen in the backdrop of the Bt Brinjal fiasco and is aimed to placate Monsanto and suit the American business interests.

The AIKS statement, signed by its president S Ramachandran Pillai and general secretary K Varadha Rajan, has expressed the opinion that in the context of seed monopolies, exorbitant prices and the exaggerated claims of productivity and crop failures due to spurious seeds, what is needed is a legislation for the protection of farmersí traditional rights and seeds in accordance with the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmersí Rights Act. The AIKS has pointed out that the bill proposes no regulatory body for fixing and controlling the seed prices, nor is there strong deterrent action to prevent spurious seeds. Nor does it propose time-bound disposal of complaints or a fast-track arbitration authority accessible to farmers. It only promotes exclusive, perpetual and monopolistic rights of seed companies to arbitrarily fix the prices and allows them unrestricted right to collect exorbitant royalties. The prolonged registration and re-registration provision will give an open license to seed monopolies for exploiting the farmers for an unlimited period.

Further, compulsory licensing right is not provided in the proposed bill. This constrains the peasantry from receiving superior seeds by payment of affordable royalties, as fixed by a competent body. Federal principles guaranteed by the Seed Act of 1966 have been diluted by not providing all states representation on the Central Seed Committee. The provisional registration granted for transgenic varieties is to facilitate the entry of untested seeds and GM food crops into the market through the backdoor, which will sabotage the bio-safety regulatory system of the country as well as the Biological Diversity Act. The statement said it is dangerous to accredit the foreign seed certification agencies as there will be no control over them. Their climatic conditions, soil, crop management system etc vary from ours and the seeds tested outside will not have the desired impact in our country.

The All India Kisan Sabha has therefore demanded that the bill must not be passed without ensuring adequate safeguards to protect the rights of the peasantry and to regulate the seed prices as well as monopolies. While asking the government to accept the pro-farmer amendments suggested by the standing committee, the organisation has called upon all its units to remain vigilant and unite the peasantry in protest against any effort to compromise the farmersí interests.