AYUSH – Indian Medicine System

Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Biological Diversity Act, 2002

Mains level: Proposed amendments and issues

What is issue:

A senior parliamentarian has expressed concern over the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which is in the final stages of consultations in the Joint Parliamentary Committee.

Biological Diversity Act (BDA), 2002: 

  • The BDA, 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.
  • The main intent of this legislation is to protect India’s rich biodiversity and associated knowledge against their use by foreign individuals.
  • It seeks to check biopiracy, protect biological diversity and local growers through a three-tier structure of central and state boards and local committees.
  • The Act provides for setting up of a National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) in local bodies.
  • The NBA will enjoy the power of a civil court.

What are the proposed Amendments?

The amendment bill seeks to reduce the pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants and Decriminalizes certain offences.

  • Biological resources sharing: Exempts Ayush practitioners from intimating biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources or knowledge (Vaids and Hakims)
  • Research promotion: Facilitates fast-tracking of research, simplify the patent application process
  • Bring in foreign investment: Seeks to bring more foreign investments in biological resources, research, patent and commercial utilisation, without compromising the national interest

Need for the Amendment

  • Simplifying process: Concerns were raised by Ayush medicine, seed, industry and research sectors urging the government to simplify, streamline the profession.
  • Easing compliance: They urged govt to reduce the compliance burden to provide for a conducive environment for collaborative research and investments.
  • Access and Benefit-sharing: It also sought to simplify the patent application process, widen the scope of access and benefit-sharing with local communities.
  • Exemptions: Ayush practitioners have been exempted from the ambit of the Act, a huge move because the Ayush industry benefits greatly from biological resources in India.
  • Certain offences: Violations of the law related to benefit-sharing with communities, which are currently treated as criminal offences and are non-bailable, have been proposed to be made civil offences.
  • Imbibing Nagoya Protocol: This bill provides to reconcile the domestic law with free prior informed consent requirements of the 2010 Nayogya Protocol on ABS.

Criticisms of the bill

  • No consultation: The bill has been introduced without seeking public comments as required under the pre-legislative consultative policy.
  • No profit-sharing: There are ambiguous provisions in the proposed amendment to protect, conserve or increase the stake of local communities in the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity.
  • Commercialization: Activists say that the amendments were done to “solely benefit” the AYUSH Ministry.
  • Loopholes to Biopiracy: The Bill would mean AYUSH manufacturing companies would no longer need to take approvals.
  • Ignoring Bio-utilization: The bill has excluded the term Bio-utilization which is an important element in the Act.  Leaving out bio utilization would leave out an array of activities like characterization, incentivisation and bioassay which are undertaken with commercial motive.
  • Exotic plants cultivation: The bill also exempts cultivated medicinal plants from the purview of the Act but it is practically impossible to detect which plants are cultivated and which are from the wild.
  • De-licensing: This provision could allow large companies to evade the requirement for prior approval or share the benefit with local communities.

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