'Draft seed bill leaves farmers at mercy of companies'

Draft seed bill leaves farmers at mercy of big companies: Experts

Representative image.

Experts and activists said the draft Seed Bill 2019 leaves farmers at the mercy of big companies while failing to secure agriculturists' rights over the seeds by maintaining a status quo that encourages monopoly of corporates.

At a discussion on the government’s Seed Bill organised by Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha and Hasiuru Sene, the former chairman of Agriculture Price Commission Prakash Kammaradi said the bill the concerns raised by the Ram Gopal Yadav-led standing committee have not been addressed by the draft bill.

“Seeds were part of heritage but became a commodity post liberalisation. However, while recognising the fact that farmers are gradually losing rights over the seeds, the draft bill should have come up with measures to stop this phenomenon,” he said.

Kammaradi said the proposal for registration of seeds at state and central level is problematic. “As per the bill, a seed can be registered before its yield is tested. At the same time, the bill fails to address the concern of compensation for farmers who suffer crop loss due to defective seeds. Making farmers go to consumer court for damages is an impractical idea considering the paucity of resources,” he said, calling for setting up of seed regulation authorities and compensation tribunals at taluk and district level.

M K Ramesh, professor at National Law School of India University said the draft bill stands in isolation and doesn’t fit in with related laws. “The proposed bill seeks to address the issues surrounding seeds, which are in turn related to laws governing biodiversity and environment. But the present bill not only fails to refer to the existing laws but also skips the question over genetically modified seeds,” he said.

He further said the bill has many illogical and unscientific elements starting from the definition of the farmer. “Farmers are defined as persons owning agricultural or those doing agricultural work. No other law has such narrow definitions,” he said.