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The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill 2021

GS Paper 2/ 3

 Syllabus: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation/ Environment and Conservation


Source: HT

 Context: The Lok Sabha passed the contentious Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill 2021.



  • Biodiversity refers to the variety of life forms that exist on the planet.
  • Human activities have created challenges for biodiversity such as loss of habitat, and deterioration of ecological systems, and there have also been concerns around bio-piracy.
    • Bio-piracy involves the unauthorised appropriation of biological resources and related knowledge belonging to indigenous communities.
  • A key multilateral treaty to address these concerns is the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 1992. India became a signatory to CBD in 1994.
    • The CBD recognises sovereign rights over biological resources.
    • It permits countries to regulate access to these resources as per their national legislation.
    • It recognises the contributions of local communities to conservation and sustainable use through traditional knowledge.
    • It provides for equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of these resources with such people.
  • In light of India’s commitments under CBD, the Biological Diversity Act 2002 was passed by Parliament.


About the Biological Diversity Act 2002:

  • It regulates access to biological resources and associated traditional knowledge. It specifies distinct frameworks for regulating access by foreign and domestic entities.
  • It sets up a 3-tier structure for regulation:
    • National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at the national level,
    • State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) at the state level, and
    • Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at the local body level.
  • The Act provides for sharing of benefits (through monetary compensation, sharing of IPRs or technology transfer) with conservers of biodiversity and holders and creators of associated knowledge.


Salient provisionsThe Biological Diversity Act 2002The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill 2021
Access to biological resources and associated knowledgeRequires prior approval or intimation to the regulatory authority based on the origin of the entityAmends the classification of entities, list of activities requiring intimation, and adds exemptions
Approval for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)Approval of NBA is required before applying for IPR involving biological resources obtained from India or sealing of the patentApproval will be required before the grant of IPR instead of before the application itself
Benefit sharingNBA is required to determine terms of benefit sharing while granting approvals for various activitiesSBB will determine benefit sharing while granting approvals to domestic entities as per the regulations by NBA
Offences and PenaltiesOffences include failing to take approval or providing prior intimation for various activities.  These offences are punishable with imprisonment of up to five years/ a fine/ bothThe Bill decriminalises the offences and makes offences punishable with a penalty between one lakh rupees and Rs 50 lakh


Access to biological resources and associated knowledgeThe Biological Diversity Act, 2002Changes made by the Bill
Approval required from NBA (for certain foreign entities)


Entities: foreign individuals, NRIs, companies not registered in India, and companies registered in India and having non-Indian participation in share capital or managementEntities: changes the last category to companies registered in India which are “foreign-controlled” companies as under the Companies Act, 2013
Prior intimation required to SBB (for certain domestic entities)Activities: obtaining biological resources occurring in India for commercial utilisationActivities: access to associated knowledge for commercial utilisation will also require prior intimation
Exemptions: use by local people and communities including growers and cultivators of biodiversityExemptions: adds exemptions for codified traditional knowledge, cultivated medicinal plants and their products, AYUSH practitioners


Significance of the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill 2021: The Bill seeks to amend the 2002 Act to:

  • Simplify compliance requirements for domestic companies.
  • Encourage the Indian system of medicine and cultivation of wild medicinal plants,
  • Facilitate fast-tracking of processes for research, patent application, and transfer of research results,
  • Decriminalise offences, and
  • Encourage foreign investment in the sector.


Key issues:

  • The term codified traditional knowledge has not been defined. A broad interpretation might exempt all local traditional knowledge from benefit-sharing requirements.
  • The Bill removes the direct role of local communities in determining benefit-sharing provisions.
  • The Bill decriminalises offences under the Act and instead provides for a wide range of penalties.
  • The Bill confers discretion to government officials, as they can hold inquiries and determine penalties.
  • A review of the law was necessary, however, the present bill can appear to be limited and selective, especially to favour specific bio resources-based industries.


Way ahead: The Joint Parliamentary Committee (to which the Bill was referred) recommended that the penalty structure (should not be too meagre) should be proportionate to the gains obtained by entities using biological resources.