The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture has invited public comments on Agriculture Biosecurity Bill, 2013 that provides for the establishment of an integrated national biosecurity system, covering plant, animal, marine and farm microorganisms to combat threats of bioterrorism from pests and weeds. An agriculture biosecurity authority is proposed to be set up for prevention, control, eradication and management of pests and diseases of plants and animals and unwanted organisms.

The panel, chaired by Basudeb Acharia, has also sought suggestions from experts, stakeholders, individuals and institutions on pricing of agricultural produce, particularly on the methodology of fixing the minimum support price, need to broad-base the crops covered, market intervention to protect farmers from distress sale and need for an integrated price structure. Suggestions can be made either in writing or in personal appearance.

The Biosecurity Bill that was introduced in the Lok Sabha in March is also meant to meet India’s international obligations to facilitate import and export of plants, plant products, animals, animal products, aquatic organisms and regulation of agriculturally important microorganisms.

The proposed Authority will regulate the export and import of plants, animals and related products, prevent entry of quarantine pests from outside India and take steps for post-entry quarantine measures.

The Bill repeals the Destructive Insects and Pests Act and the Livestock Importation Act of 1898.

According to sources in the government, with the liberalisation of global trade in agriculture there is an increased risk of introduction of exotic pests and weeds in the country that can cause serious economic loss. Genetically modified organisms also require proper risk assessment and management. Climate change too has the potential to alter the habitat of known pests and even introduce new pests.

The emergence and spread of trans-boundary diseases such as avian influenza, the Ug-99 wheat stem rust fungus pose new threats to human, animal and plant safety.

The proposed autonomous Authority is meant to improve safety, efficiency, transparency and compliance of quarantine and pest management regulations and respond swiftly to contain biosecurity problems. It will also ensure the conduct of bio-secure international trade in agriculture.

The memoranda submitted to the committee shall be treated as “confidential” and form a part of the report at the discretion of the panel. It can be sent to agricom@sansad.nic.in

The committee had earlier looked at “Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops — Prospects and Effects.”

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