From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not Much
Mains level : Need for certified quality seeds to farmers
- More than half of all seeds sold in India are not certified by any proper testing agency, and are often of poor quality.
Regulation of Seeds
- The Centre now hopes to mandate uniform certification by pushing through a replacement to the Seeds Act, 1966, in the winter session of Parliament, and also by barcoding all seeds to ensure their traceability.
- This could increase overall agricultural productivity by up to 25%.
- The main aim of the new legislation, which is ready for submission to the Cabinet for approval, is to bring uniformity to the process of quality regulation.
- The 1966 Act starts with these words: “An Act to provide for regulating the quality of certain seeds for sale…”
- The new Bill removes the word “certain”, and aims to regulate the quality of all seeds sold in the country, as well as exported and imported seeds.
Why such move?
- Currently, about 30% of seeds are what the farmer himself saves from his crop.
- She/he may re-plant that or sells it locally. The remaining seeds which are bought and sold commercially, 45% come through the ICAR system and have gone through the mandated certification process.
- The other 55% are sold by private companies, most of which are not certified, but rather what we call ‘truthful label seeds’.
- That is, they are simply self-certified by the company.
- Authorities want to remove this self-certified category with the new law and mandate certification through a proper lab process for all seeds.
Benefits of certification
- With the bill passed, the companies will be held accountable for the quality of the seeds they sell, and the claims they make.
- If a seed fails at the germination, flowering or seed-setting process, the company which sold it must be held liable and made to provide compensation.
- The new Bill will also raise the stakes by increasing penalties for non-compliance.
- Currently, the fine ranges from ₹500 to ₹5,000. We intend to raise that to [a maximum of] ₹5 lakh.
Barcode verification to boost transparency
- The Centre also aims to roll out software to barcode seeds in order to ensure transparency and traceability.
- The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has been collaborating with the Agriculture Ministry for this ₹5 crore project and the first prototype will be ready very soon.
- The software system will be able to track seeds through the testing, certification and manufacturing process.
- By connecting to a dealer licensing system, seeds will be tracked through the distribution process as well.
- This will help weed out poor quality seeds sold by some fly-by-night operators.