Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Open Source seed movement
- Acquaculture bill
- Media One case
- Forest Conservation Bill –
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Open-Source seed Movement
Context: Software and seeds seem as different as chalk and cheese – but as programmers have done for decades, farmers have innovated and shared seeds without any intellectual property rights (IPR) claims for centuries. Farmers also haven’t sought exclusive rights over seeds and germplasm to prevent others from innovating on the seeds.
What are Plant Breeders’ Rights?
- In 1994, the establishment of the World Trade Organisation and then the Trade-Related IPR Agreement cast a global IPR regime over plant varieties. TRIPS required countries to provide at least one form of IP protection while consolidation in the seeds sector raised concerns about the freedom to innovate.
- In effect, there are now two forms of IPR protection in agriculture:
- Plant-breeders’ rights and Patents.
- Plant- breeders’ rights- Plant breeders’ rights (PBR), also known as plant variety rights (PVR), are rights granted to the breeder of a new variety of plant that give the breeder exclusive control over the propagating material (including seed, cuttings, divisions, tissue culture) and harvested material (cut flowers, fruit, foliage) of a new variety for a number of years. With these rights, the breeder can choose to become the exclusive marketer of the variety, or to license the variety to others
- Patent – A patent for an invention is granted by government to the inventor, giving the inventor the right to stop others, for a limited period, from making, using or selling the invention without their permission.
What are the problems faced by the farmers due to IP protection in agriculture?
- In IP P regime, farmers’ rights were limited while rights-holders could demand royalty on seeds and legally enforce PBRs. In some countries, the PBR regulations allow rights-holders to restrict the unauthorised use of seeds to develop new varieties.
- The high prices of genetically modified seeds and IP claims triggered many problems, including the State’s intervention on Bt cotton seeds in India.
- It restricts farmers’ rights and the freedom to develop new varieties using germplasm from IP-protected varieties.
- As public sector breeding declined and the private sector began to dominate the seed sector, the need for alternatives became keenly felt.
- In 1999, a Canadian plant-breeder named T.E. Michaels suggested an approach to seeds based on the principles of open-source software.
What are ‘open-source seeds’?
- In 2002, Boru Douthwaite and T.E. Michaels proposed an open-source model for seeds and plant varieties. It is called as BioLinux model.
- The OSSI simply asks for a pledge, that an individual won’t “restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.
Are there such initiatives in India?
- Worldwide, the number of seed firms using open-source models and the crop varieties and seeds made available there under is small but growing. India is yet to test and adopt it widely.
- Under the Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act (PPVFRA) 2001, farmers can register varieties as ‘farmer varieties’ if they meet certain conditions, and have the right to reuse, replant, and exchange seeds. However, they can’t breed and trade in varieties protected under the Act for commercial purposes.
- Using the open – source approach here will enable farmers to gain more rights over germplasm and seeds and facilitate innovation. So there is a need to test this approach with farmers and the three FPOs can take the lead.
Are there other ways the model can help?
- One potential application of the open source approach is to use it in farmer-led seed conservation and distribution systems. There are many traditional-variety conservation and sharing initiatives in India ,including those involving farmers.
- Many of them focus on traditional varieties that are unique to specific regions or sites and/or have specific features. To more widely adopt these varieties, the government and other stakeholders can consider an open source model.
- The model can also be used to promote farmer-led participatory plant-breeding exercises. Traditional varieties often lack uniformity and aren’t of excellent quality. Open- source principles can help overcome these two challenges by facilitating testing, improvisation, and adoption – all of which will ultimately be beneficial to India’s food security and climate resilience.
2 . The Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill
Context: The Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which was introduced by Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Minister Parshottam Rupala, seeks to decriminalise certain offences listed under the earlier 2005 Act for promoting ease of doing business.
About the Bill
- The Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which was introduced in the Lower House seeks to expand the scope, remove regulatory gaps and reduce the regulatory compliance burden without diluting environmental protection rules in the coastal areas.
- To decriminalise the offences, the bill seeks to remove the jail term of up to three years and impose only a penalty of up to Rs 1 lakh.
- It also seeks to fine-tune the operational procedures of the Coastal Aquaculture Authority to make it more responsive to the needs of the stakeholders, promote newer forms of environment-friendly coastal aquaculture like cage culture and seaweed culture, and usher in global best practices in this sector, including mapping and zonation of aquaculture areas, quality assurance and safe aquaculture products.
- The bill also seeks to encourage the establishment of facilities in areas having direct access to seawater to produce genetically improved and disease-free brood stocks and seed for use in coastal aquaculture besides preventing the use of antibiotics and pharmacologically active substances, which are harmful to human health in coastal aquaculture.
3 . Media One Case
Context: The Supreme Court has ruled that the Centre’s refusal to renew the broadcast licence of Malayalam channel MediaOne amounted to restricting the freedom of the press, and that criticism of government policy does not constitute a “reasonable restriction” under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
Background of the Media One case
- The channel got security clearance from the Home Ministry on February 7, 2011. Subsequently, on September 30, the Information & Broadcasting Ministry gave Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd (MBL), the company that runs MediaOne, permission to uplink for 10 years.
- On January 31, 2022, the I&B Ministry revoked the permission after the Home Ministry refused to grant fresh security clearance. According to the Supreme Court judgment , the MHA cited the channel promoters’ alleged links with the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.
- Following the revoking of its licence, MediaOne went off air.
Challenge before High Court
- The channel challenged the Centre’s action before the Kerala High Court. The Centre submitted during the hearing that its decision was based on grounds of national security.
- On February 9, 2022, a single Bench of the HC upheld the ban on the channel. On appeal, a division Bench of the High Court, on March 2, upheld the order of the single judge.
- The HC relied on material that the Home Ministry submitted in a sealed cover. The division Bench observed that the files submitted by the Home Ministry “indicate that the Committee of Officers took note of the inputs provided by intelligence agencies” and “found that the inputs are of a serious nature and fall under the security rating parameters”. The Ministry accepted the advice of the Committee of Officers to not renew the channel’s licence.
- The promoters of the channel contended that they did not get a chance to defend themselves because the national security reasons cited to deny renewal of licence were given only to the HC in a sealed cover. On March 15, 2022, the SC stayed the HC order and allowed the channel to resume operations.
- Further the SC set aside both the January 31, 2022 order of the I&B Ministry and the Kerala HC order upholding the government action. It criticised the sealed cover procedure adopted in the HC, as well as the “cavalier manner” in which the Centre had “raised the claim of national security” to deny the channel security clearance.
- The court said the channel had proved that its right to a fair hearing “has been infringed by the unreasoned order of the MIB…and the non-disclosure of relevant material to the appellants, and its disclosure solely to the court”.
- NATIONAL SECURITY PLEA: “The state is using national security as a tool to deny citizens remedies that are provided under the law. This is not compatible with the rule of law,” it said. On the alleged links between the channel’s promoters and the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, the judgment said that there was no evidence on record to show that shareholders of the channel are JEIH sympathisers.
- PRESS FREEDOM: An independent press is vital for the robust functioning of a democratic republic, the SC said. The press has a duty to speak truth to power, and present citizens with hard facts enabling them to make choices that propel democracy in the right direction. A homogenised view on issues would pose grave dangers to democracy, the court said.
- PUBLIC INTEREST IMMUNITY: The court said the sealed cover procedure violated principles of both natural justice and open justice, and devised a procedure for “public interest immunity claim” as a less restrictive alternative.
Freedom of Press
- To preserve the democratic way of life it is essential that people should have the freedom to express their feelings and to make their views known to the people at large. The press, a powerful medium of mass communication, should be free to play its role in building a strong viable society. Denial of freedom of the press to citizens would necessarily undermine the power to influence public opinion and be counter to democracy.
- Freedom of press is not specifically mentioned in article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution and what is mentioned there is only freedom of speech and expression.
- However, the freedom of the press is not absolute, just as the freedom of expression is not. Public Interest has to be safeguard by article 19(1)(2) which lays down reasonable limitations to the freedom of expression in matters affecting:
- a. Sovereignty and integrity of the State
b. Security of the State
c. Friendly relations with foreign countries
d. Public order
e. Decency and morality
f. Contempt of court
h. Incitement to an offence
4 . Forest Conservation Bill
What is the Forest Conservation Act 1980?
- Forest Conservation Act 1980 is a unique piece of legislation and regulatory mechanism that reflects the collective will of the nation to protect its rich forests, biodiversity and natural heritage and resources.
- The act permits only unavoidable use of forest land for various development purposes.
- It embodies the firm commitment of the Government and the Department to balance the conservation of forests with the sustainable developmental need of the society contributing to better environment, health and economy.
About the Forest Conservation (Amendment) Bill 2023
- According to the government, the bill seeks to clarify the scope of applicability of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, on various lands. It seeks to broaden the horizons of the Act, keeping in view India’s aim to increase forest cover for creation of a carbon sink of additional 2.5-3.0 billion tons of CO2 equivalent by 2030.
- It also proposes to exempt certain categories of lands from the purview of the Act to fast track strategic and security-related projects of national importance, to provide access to small establishments, habitations on the side of public roads and railways, and to encourage plantation on non-forest land.
- The bill proposes to insert a preamble to the Act to encompass the country’s rich tradition of preserving forests, their bio-diversity and tackling climate change challenges within its ambit.
- It provides for terms and conditions including the condition of planting trees to compensate for felling of trees undertaken on the lands while considering the proposed relaxations under the Act.
- It seeks to include more activities for the cause of conservation of forest and wildlife into the array of forestry activities and bring uniformity in the applicability of the provisions of the Act in respect of government and private entities.
- It also empowers the central government to specify, by order, the terms and conditions subject to which any survey, such as, reconnaissance, prospecting, investigation or exploration including seismic survey, shall not be treated as non-forest purpose.
What are key provisions of the Bill?
- Restrictions on activities in forest:
- The Act restricts the de-reservation of forest or use of forest land for non-forest purposes. Such restrictions may be lifted with the prior approval of the central government.
- Non-forest purposes include use of land for cultivating horticultural crops or for any purpose other than reafforestation.
- Land under the purview of the Act:
- Following Independence, vast swathes of forest land were designated as reserved and protected forests and brought under state forest departments. However, many forested areas were left out — and areas without any standing forests were included in ‘forest’ lands.
- The amendment Bill, instead of completing the demarcation process on the ground, seeks to limit the applicability of the FC Act only to land recorded as ‘forest’. This will have the effect of removing the protection of the Act from millions of hectares of land that have the characteristics of forests, but are not notified as such.
- The Bill provides that two types of land will be under the purview of the Act: (i) land declared/notified as a forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or under any other law, or (ii) land not covered in the first category but notified as a forest on or after October 25, 1980 in a government record. Further, the Act will not apply to land changed from forest use to non-forest use on or before December 12, 1996 by any authority authorised by a state/UT.
- Exempted categories of land:
- The Bill also exempts certain types of land from the provisions of the Act such as forest land along a rail line or a public road maintained by the government providing access to a habitation, or to a rail, and roadside amenity up to a maximum size of 0.10 hectare.
- Forest land that will also be exempted includes:
(i) land situated within 100 km along the international borders, Line of Control, or Line of Actual Control, proposed to be used for construction of strategic linear project for national importance or security,
(ii) land up to 10 hectares, proposed to be used for constructing security related infrastructure, or
(iii) land proposed to be used for constructing defence related project, camp for paramilitary forces, or public utility projects as specified by central government (not exceeding five hectares in a left wing extremism affected area).
- These exemptions will be subject to the terms and conditions specified by the central government by guidelines.
- Assigning of land through a lease or otherwise:
- Under the Act, state government or any authority requires prior approval of the central government to direct the assigning of forest land through a lease or otherwise to any organisation (such as private person, agency, authority, corporation) not owned by the government.
- The Bill provides that such assigning may be done to any organisation (such as private person, agency, authority, corporation) subject to terms and conditions prescribed by central government.
- Power to issue directions:
- The Bill adds that the central government may issue directions for the implementation of the Act to any other authority/ organisation under or recognised by the centre, state, or union territory.
5 . Facts For Prelims
International Finance Corporation
- IFC is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in developing countries.
- The IFC is a member of the World Bank Group and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States.
- It was established in 1956, as the private-sector arm of the World Bank Group, to advance economic development and improve the lives of people by encouraging the growth of the private sector in developing countries.
- Objective -Its aim is to create opportunities for people to escape poverty and achieve better living standards by mobilizing financial resources for private enterprise, promoting accessible and competitive markets, supporting businesses and other private-sector entities, and creating jobs and delivering necessary services to those who are poverty stricken or otherwise vulnerable.
- Functions- Investment services – It consist of loans, equity, trade finance, syndicated loans, structured and securitized finance, client risk management services, treasury services, and liquidity management.
- Advisory services- In addition to its investment activities the IFC provides a range of advisory services to support corporate decision-making regarding business, environment, social impact, and sustainability.