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Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021:

Government has recently introduced the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha.

Highlights of the Bill:

  • The Bill seeks to reduce the pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants.
  • The Bill proposes to exempt AYUSH practitioners from intimating biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources or knowledge.
  • The Bill also facilitates fast-tracking of research, simplify the patent application process, decriminalises certain offences.
  • The Bill brings more foreign investments in biological resources, research, patent and commercial utilisation, without compromising the national interest.
  • The bill focuses on regulating who can access biological resources and knowledge and how access will be monitored.
  • The Bill has also clarified and strengthened the role of state biodiversity boards.
  • People from AYUSH medicine urged the government to simplify, streamline and reduce the compliance burden to provide for a conducive environment for collaborative research and investments.
  • They also sought to simplify the patent application process, widen the scope of access and benefit-sharing with local communities.
  • The main focus of the bill is to facilitate trade in biodiversity as opposed to conservation, protection of biodiversity and knowledge of the local communities.
  • The bill has been introduced without seeking public comments as required under the pre-legislative consultative policy.
  • 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.
  • Activists say that the amendments were done to “solely benefit” the AYUSH Ministry.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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