Agriculture Ministry Licensing Guidelines Discourages Research & Innovation: ASSOCHAM

Agriculture Ministry Licensing Guidelines Discourages Research & Innovation: ASSOCHAM

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) expressed concern over recent actions by the Agriculture Ministry, notifying on May 18 a new framework for licences for agricultural biotechnology covering existing and future technologies and advocated review of the same.

ASSOCHAM believes that this notification creates an environment that discourages research and innovation and, therefore, needs to be reviewed urgently. This draft notification can have a huge negative impact on India’s cotton sector, and will have deep rooted ramifications for all other knowledge and innovation driven sectors.

Commenting on notification issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, ASSOCHAM says this draft notification has serious implications for research and innovation in the country. By trying to determine the price of technology, overriding existing commercial contracts of technology providers and introducing essentially compulsory licensing provisions, it may send a negative message. This could have ramifications across R&D and technology intensive sectors such as pharmaceuticals, telecom and has potential to dampen investor interest in government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.”

Agriculture R&D is a long process that requires substantial investments over decades to develop and launch hybrids and new technologies in seeds. It is, therefore, important for this process to be economically viable and sustainable.

ASSOCHAM further says technology will underpin the future of many so-called traditional sectors and agriculture is one of them. A policy environment that dilutes returns on investments discourages private sector research and investments in agricultural technology, and may ultimately harm India’s farmers by depriving them of access to the best technologies from around the world.

The government instead of dictating the licence terms and artificial price controls, should focus on creating an environment that encourages research and recognizes the benefit that these technologies bring to farmers,” says the Chamber.

Amidst increasing consumer demand, India’s agricultural sector remains under constant pressure to increase farm output, even as farmers struggle against inclement weather, water shortage and high labour costs that make it an imperative to encourage innovation rather than penalizing innovating firms.

The government has embarked on an ambitious plan to ‘Make in India’ – to turn India into a hub for innovation and knowledge. The Government has articulated its vision, and provided direction in this regard. However, this vision can be undermined by policy contradictions that can result in dissatisfaction among companies operating in India as well as potential investors.

A policy framework that honours the sanctity of mutually agreed contracts, safeguards intellectual property, and encourages investments in research and innovation is the foundation for a knowledge driven India that will enable its citizens to prosper.