India tabled an Agriculture Biosecurity Bill in Parliament last year (2013). The government at the Centre has changed since and the Bill is still pending. In the absence of a robust national regulation for biosecurity, the country is still dependent upon an archaic Destructive Insects and Pests Act (DIPA) and the Livestock Importation Act.
In a commentary that discusses the urgent need for a new regulation for the country, our freelance contributor Manupriya writes:
One of the biggest criticisms about the Bill is that it does not include epizootics/zoonoses, disease causing organisms that can hop from one vertebrate to another. Famous examples of such diseases are SARS, Avian flu and Mad Cow disease which can be easily transferred from their primary hosts to humans. While mad cow has not been a cause of concern yet for India, both SARS and avian flu have caused havoc.
India’s ministry of Health and Family Welfare has not made any input to the Bill saying it is the prerogative of the Food safety and Standards authority of India Act. However, international guidelines on biosecurity laid out by FAO clearly say that human health is a key factor that should be considered in every country’s biosecurity framework.
Another criticism for the Bill has been in the area of domestic quarantine. While the bill, does forbid individuals to “possess, move, grow, raise, culture, breed or produce any plant, animal and plant product”, it does not clarify how states should act to contain the spread of disease. India’s past record in imposing domestic quarantine has not been worth mention. Numerous diseases that made a localized appearance earlier have now spread all over the country.
The new Bill hopes to establish an Agricultural Biosecurity Authority of India with headquarters in the national capital region and regional centres all over the country. The authority is expected to be responsible for regulation of the import and export of plants, animals and related products; prevention of entry of quarantine pests; and implementation of post-entry quarantine measures.
Read the commentary here for more on the whys and hows of biosafety in India.