Webinar on “Implementation of Access to Plant Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing (ABS)” organized

Date Posted: 31-08-2020

A National Webinar on “Implementation of Access to Plant Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing (ABS) was held on August 27, 2020.

Dr T. Mohapatra, Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) & Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in his Chief Guest’s Address said that implementation of rules on access to bioresources and benefit sharing arising from their commercial use has been uneven and complex, given the rich biodiversity of the country and lack of adequate capacity and awareness amongst the varied stakeholders. He expressed hope of greater convergence in the Authorities dealing with these issues, especially in the light of revision of the Biological Diversity Act (BDA), Rule and Guidelines, that are currently being deliberated at country level. He urged that more technology and science-based evidences be applied to resolve issues of origin and ownership of genetic resources, to facilitate better benefit sharing mechanisms.

Dr R.S. Paroda, President, Indian Society of Plant Genetic Resources (ISPGR) and Chairman, Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS) was the Chair of the Inaugural and Concluding Sessions. He highlighted the genesis and objectives of the webinar, and hoped that a roadmap be developed for framework for effective implementation of ABS implementation, possibly through a single window system (akin to GST Council of the GoI), with greater coordination and convergence. He said that the Ninth Governing Body Meeting (GB9) slated to be hosted by India in December 2021 would be a great opportunity to show case India’ strength and diversity, including ABS implementation mechanisms and impact.

Dr V.B. Mathur, Chairman, National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), while giving his remarks as Special Invitee in the inaugural session, spelled out three important implementation issues on ABS under the BDA – (i) correct valuation of bioresources, (ii) interpretation of the statutes (iii) missing or inadequate definitions. He informed that through an elaborate consultative process, revisions are being undertaken by the government for increased convergence between various implementing agencies, with the final objective of facilitating ‘ease of doing business’.

Dr Juan Lucas Restrepo, Director General, Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in his remarks as Special Invitee, said that the disruptions caused the food supply chains during the current pandemic due to COVID-19 makes a compelling case to ensure that an enabling environment be created for societal changes for long-term food and nutritional security. He further emphasized on mainstreaming of agrobiodiversity and diversification of agro-ecological landscapes. While appreciating India’ efforts on implementation of ABS, he said there is need for greater harmonization in the Nagoya Protocol (NP) and International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGRFA) for ABS issues.

The technical session was Chaired by Dr P.L. Gautam, Former Chairman, NBA and Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers’ Right Authority (PPV&FRA) and Co-Chaired by Dr R.C. Agrawal, Deputy Director General(DDG) (Education) & National Director, NAHEP, ICAR. Dr Vania Azevedo, Head of Genebank, ICRISAT spoke on “ABS in PGRFA – Global experience” and elaborated on the subscription system for ABS under the ITPGRFA. Dr Malathi Lakshmikumaran Executive Director, Laxmikumaran & Sridharan Associates gave a talk on “ABS in respect to conventional plant breeding under the BDA” and flagged several pragmatic issues in interpretation of terms in the act, as applicable to breeding and research. Dr Ram Kaundinya Director General, Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) presented the “Perspectives of seed sector on ABS” and highlighted the need for seed sector specific guidelines for agriculture and food sectors and called for resolving the operational issues of seed industry being faced in the current ABS regime. Ms Shalini Bhutani, Legal Researcher and Policy Analyst, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) spoke on “Respecting (agrobio) diversity, sharing benefits” and laid emphasis on the need to revitalize famer and public participatory breeding systems, and support for greater diversified seed industry.

Dr T.R. Sharma, DDG (Crop Science), ICAR and Dr Kuldeep Singh, Director, ICAR- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) were the Chair and Co-Chair, respectively during the panel discussion. Panelists flagged various stakeholder issues and included Mr Álvaro Toledo Deputy Secretary, ITPGRFA; Dr S.K. Sharma Former Director, ICAR-NBPGR; Dr Bhag Mal, Secretary, TAAS; Dr Sanjeev Saxena, Assistant Director General (IPTMU), ICAR; Dr Rishi Kumar Tyagi Coordinator, APCoAB; Dr K.S. Varaprasad Former Director, ICAR-IIOR; Dr K.P. Raghuram Technical Officer, NBA; Dr Neeti Wilson Partner, Anand & Anand and Mr. P. Narayanan Unny Navara Eco Farm.

More than 200 participants including both from public and private sector, participated in the Webinar. The meeting was hosted online by ICAR-NBPGR and jointly organized by the ISPGR and Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, India Office, in collaboration with NBA, PPV&FRA and TAAS.

(Source Director, ICAR-NBPGR and General Secretary, ISPGR)