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Bill Introduced in the Lok Sabha for Setting UP Agricultural Biosecurity Authority

Agriculture and FPI Minister, Shri Sharad Pawar introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha today to provide for establishment of an Authority for prevention, control, eradication and management of pests and diseases of plants and animals and unwanted organisms.

The proposed legislation will ensure agricultural biosecurity of the country for common benefit and for safeguarding the agricultural economy.

It will also meet international obligations of India for facilitating imports and exports of plants, plant products, animals, animal products, aquatic organisms and regulation of agriculturally important micro organisms.

The Bill seeks to bring together the plant, animal and marine protection and quarantine set ups under a high powered body an Authority – with adequate powers. The Authority™s mandate will cover the four sectors of agricultural biosecurity, viz. plant health, animal health, living aquatic resources (fisheries, etc.) and agriculturally important micro-organisms.

Why the need for a common authority on agricultural biosecurity?

The liberalisation of global trade in agriculture has opened new avenues for growth and diversification of agriculture, but it has also brought in many challenges. There is an increased risk of introduction of exotic pests and weeds in the country with the potential to cause serious economic losses. Advances in genetic engineering leading to the introduction and release of living modified organisms or their products (e.g. genetically modified organisms) require proper risk assessment and management. Climate change has the potential to alter the habitat of known pests and even cause introduction of new pests. We have to contend with the ever increasing threat of bio-terrorism. The emergence and spread of transboundary diseases such as the avian influenza and the Ug-99 wheat stem rust fungus pose new threats to human, animal and plant safety.

A number of plant diseases, animal diseases, marine diseases and pests have been introduced into India through import of seeds, planting material, livestock and livestock products previously. Many of them, including weeds such as Parthenium, Phalaris minor and Lanatana camara, have got established in the country and continue to cause enormous economic losses every year.

Over the years, systems have been developed and put in place separately for protection of plant, animal and marine health. The existing systems including infrastructure for agricultural biosecurity of the country need major changes to meet the emerging challenges which have highlighted agricultural biosecurity as an urgent issue requiring policies and technological capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to such threats. An integrated approach towards agricultural biosecurity would not only increase the national capacity to protect human health, agricultural production and livelihood, safeguard the environment, and protect against uncertain technologies and products, but also equip the country to meet obligations under international trade and sanitary and phytosanitary agreements in food and agricultural products.

In a harmonised and integrated system, various authorities would work together towards the common goal of agricultural biosecurity utilising expertise from various organisations under the Ministries of Agriculture, Commerce and Industry, Defence, Environment and Forests, Health and Family Welfare, Home Affairs, Rural Development, and Science and Technology. An autonomous Authority would be required for administering biosecurity. Such an authority would improve safety, efficiency, transparency and compliance of quarantine and pest management regulations and respond swiftly to contain emergent biosecurity problems. It will also ensure conduct of biosecure international trade in agriculture.

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