Recently, in appeals filed by DCM Shriram Limited (“Appellant”) against orders of the National Biodiversity Authority (“Respondent”), the National Green Tribunal (“NGT”) has observed that conventional breeding is not exempted from the access and benefit sharing provisions under the National Biodiversity Act, 2002 (“Act”).
The Appellant specializes in research and development of crops, and had filed applications for access to biological resources, under the amnesty scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The Respondent provided the access and benefit sharing agreements with the Appellant and thereafter, directed the Appellant, inter alia, to pay the requisite fee for access upfront, irrespective of the outcome of the research.
In light of the above, the Appellant preferred appeals against the Respondent’s orders. As per the Appellant, its business is conventional breeding of crops, including crossing and selection to obtain improved varieties, which is exempted from the requirement of prior approval under the Act, and that it had filed the applications merely by way of abundant caution. The Appellant submitted that it should not be deprived of the benefit of this exemption for this reason alone. On the other hand, the Respondent submitted that the imposition of upfront payment was in consonance with Access and Benefit Sharing Regulations and the amount shall be utilised for the cause of conservation and to promote research activities as decided by the authority.
The NGT observed that the exemption is provided when resources are traded as commodities, and that the Appellant is involved in research which will lead to commercial utilization. It was further observed that parties, who produce seeds through conventional breeding cannot benefit from the exemption, since it only relates to agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, etc. The NGT noted that the amount was calculated based on the time period for which resources were accessed which is as per law, and accordingly directed the Appellant to pay the full amount.
DCM Shriram Limited v. The National Biodiversity Authority [Appeal No. 61 to 63 2023(SZ)] The National Green Tribunal, Judgement dt. May 30, 2023