UPA ministers back Nitish opposition to Seed Bill

A section of Congress is set to back the demand of chief ministers of BJP and other Opposition-ruled states to reject the Seeds Bill, 2010, in its present form.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, spearheading the campaign against the bill, has told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar that the bill, whose avowed purpose is to facilitate production and supply of seeds of quality, will put the peasantry at the "mercy of agri-businesses."

This stand of Kumar found backing of a section within the Government and members of the National Advisory Council . Ministers like Jairam Ramesh are against rushing into the use of GM crops without adequate safeguards.

In separate letters to the Prime Minister and Pawar, Nitish Kumar said the act should not be passed by Parliament without according the Seed Committee the power to decide on the price of the seed.

"Out experience with private companies producing hybrid maize seeds underscores this. While public sector companies like NSC sell seeds at less than Rs 100 per kg, the cost of private seeds run into hundreds and thousands of rupees."

Kumar said the Centre's attempts to intervene in an area that falls under state's domain - agriculture is a state subject - is unacceptable. "State governments should have the authority to fix the retail seed price and royalty charges. State governments should also be empowered to register seeds that are locally suitable and appropriate," he said.

"In addition, authorisation of seed production, processing, storage, distribution and sale should be with the state government. If seeds have to be registered with the National Register of Seeds, it is imperative that state governments must be given the authority to decide on which of these registered seeds can be licensed to be used in their state," Kumar said.

The support for the tough stand against is certain to make its passage difficult. "We cannot back this bill as it would damage agriculture and the goal of food security," said a Congress leader.

The Economic Times, 16 March, 2011, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/agriculture/upa-ministers-back-nitish-opposition-to-seed-bill/articleshow/7714843.cms

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