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Seed for the farmer: Legal Framework

The seed is the most important determinant of agricultural production. Provision of good quality seeds to the Indian farmer is a key factor in the growth of Indian agriculture.

The Seed Act of 1966, the Seeds Control Order of 1983, Seeds Policy of 1988 and the National Seeds Policy of 2002 are the major components of policy specific to the industry. In September 2001, the Plant Variety Protection and Farmer’s Rights Act came into being. In June 2002, the government announced a new seeds policy that significantly alters the framework of regulation.

The Seeds Control Order of 1983 brings seeds within the scope of the Essential Commodities Act that regulates the marketing of essential items. All seed sales outlets have to be licensed and must observe certain marketing practices such as public display of stocks and prices.

Besides regulating quality, the government has also controlled imports and exports of seed. The Seed Policy of 1988 allowed limited imports of commercial seed. Major changes in this system of regulation were proposed in the National Seeds Policy of 2002, allowing imports and exports of seeds of all crops. In 1987, the seed industry was de-reserved allowing the entry of large firms and foreign firms with equity stake in joint ventures of not more than 40%. In 1991, reforms allowed the entry of firms with majority foreign equity.

According to the Government a need was felt to substantially revise the existing seeds legislation and policy. Thus, a new Seed Bill was proposed in 2004. There has been major opposition to this, inside and outside Parliament.

In India, seeds can be accessed through six distinct means:

1. Production from one’s own farm

2. Gifts or exchanges from neighbours or relatives

3. Seed loans from within the community

4. Grain payments from medium and large landowners

5. Grain earned as part of a share-cropping arrangement

6. Purchase from local dealers (and occasionally from other farmers)

The formal seed sector is divided into two domains: the public sector, which has been present in India for over 40 years, and the private sector, whose emergence is more recent. Trends in the seed and biotechnology industry results from the interplay between these two sectors. Seed policies have largely contributed to the growth of the private sector and to the entry of foreign players.

Year of Production

TotalSeed Production
 (Lakh qtls.)

Share of private sector













(Source: compiled by Seeds Division of DAC)

The seed industry can be considered to consist of all enterprises that produce or distribute seeds. At a minimum, this involves the following activities:

1. Plant breeding research

2. Seed production and multiplication

3. Processing and storage

4. Marketing and distribution

Globally, ten companies account for about two-thirds (65 percent) of the world’s proprietary seed – that is, branded varieties subject to intellectual property protections – for major crops. Monsanto is the biggest company, whose practices are criticized the world over, and are also under investigation by US anti-trust mechanisms.

Monsanto Company uses patents and restrictive licensing agreements to investigate and sue farmers for suspected seed-saving. Monsanto and its hired investigators continue to harass, intimidate and prosecute U.S. farmers, primarily in cases involving the alleged saving and replanting of the company’s Roundup Ready soybeans. In US, farmers have paid Monsanto an estimated $85,653,601 (approx. `428 crores) to $160,594,230 (approx. `802 crores) in settlements of these seed piracy matters.

A set of seed-related reforms has enabled expansion and globalisation of the private sector in India. These include foreign investment rules, industrial licensing policies and seed import policies.  The development of biotechnology has driven a number of large national companies to tie-up with private multinational companies. By 2000, over a third of Indian seed companies had established collaborative linkages with global partners in the seed or biotechnology industry. Seeds of sorghum, pearl millet, maize and cotton are processed in fully mechanized processing plants owned by large national and multinational seed companies..

Seed Bill

The Seeds Bill, 2004’ was introduced in Rajya Sabha on 9 December, 2004, seeking to repeal and replace ‘The Seeds Act, 1966’. It was referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture on 16 December, 2004 for examination and report. Subsequently, on 13th April, 2010, government proposed some amendments to the Seed Bill, 2004. Based on this, a new draft Seed Bill, 2010, was introduced in Rajyasabha. However, a delegation from Andhra Pradesh, including the Minister for Agriculture of the State, has represented for changes in the proposed bill. After due consideration, of this representation, Union government organized a meeting on 28th July, 2010, in New Delhi.

The demand for price regulation was unanimously raised by all participants, in spite of which the Central government has not agreed to the demand. Other principal amendments were also not agreed. Later, on 18th October, 2010, Union Cabinet approved a draft Seed Bill.

In November, 2010, seed bill with some amendments was introduced in Rajyasabha. However, there is no substantial difference in the amendments made. Apparently, government did not accept any of the principal amendments proposed by many Members of Parliament, Standing Committee on Agriculture, civil society organisations and individuals. It has completely ignored these suggestions.

Amendments were also sought by the State governments of AP, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha. A delegation from Andhra Pradesh, representing farmers unions of various political parties and civil society organisations, visited New Delhi on 15-16 November, 2010, to appraise the Members of Parliament and various leaders on the status of the Seed Bill and the amendments. This delegation was led by the AP Minister for Agriculture, Sri. N. Raghuveera Reddy. In Odisha, members of Legislative Assembly raised this issue in the house. They were assured by the State government that it would safeguard the interests of farmers and would certainly ask for regulation of price of seeds through the State government mechanisms. State government of Kerala and MPs belonging to Kerala had also decided to seek principal amendments to the Seed Bill.

Parliament is yet to discuss the Seed Bill, 2010, and various amendments suggested by different members.

Farmers must be the basis of seed policy. It is clear that proprietary and patent rights for the multinational companies would constrain farmers, decreases competition, leads to consolidation of markets, decrease in number of corporate companies, arbitrary pricing, higher royalty and trait fees and harassment of farmers. Cost of cultivation is likely to increase tremendously. Farmers would not be able to use saved seeds from their own farms.

Seed Bill needs to be reexamined and revamped to preclude growth of anti-competitive conditions in seed sector, prevent monopolization, reduction in the availability of various seeds and seed varieties, control of indiscriminate and unregulated seed imports, monitor and regulate unrestricted rise in seed prices, monitor and penalize laissez faire’ corporate behavior and increase compensation for farmers. The mechanism for implementing seed bill should necessarily include State governments and their institutions. State governments should have enhanced powers. A public monitoring process and farmer participation mechanism also needs to be worked out.

India’s needs to examine and adopt Organisation for African Unity (OAU)'s Model Law, 2000, for the protection of the rights of local communities, farmers and breeders, and for the regulation of access to biological resources.

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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.