Mumbai: A draft of the first-ever guidelines for commercial use of India’s natural and biological resources and traditional knowledge is facing opposition from industries that deal in products such as herbal drugs, cosmetics and nutritional supplements.
The draft, circulated last week by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) for industry feedback, prescribes norms for accessing resources and knowledge, and procedures for sharing benefits with their providers.
But stakeholders and experts are concerned, among other things, about the draft’s ambiguity over the valuation of revenue potential and a centralized licensing system.
C. Achalender Reddy, secretary, NBA, told Mint the “Guidelines on Access and Benefit-Sharing Regarding the Utilization of Biological Resources and Knowledge” is mandated by India’s Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
“It is circulated among the stakeholders, inviting their views and comments. There will be further discussions and debates on it, and we expect further refining of the guidelines based on these feedback,” Reddy said last week.
The draft requires all commercial users of natural resources to get the government’s permission before accessing such resources, and to share records and data of the procured material with a nodal agency that will be appointed by NBA. It also asks users to report to the nodal agency on the possible impacts of commercial use to the environment.
It mandates fair payment to the providers or owners of natural resources and knowledge, such as local institutions and communities, towards the conservation and welfare of such resources. It also says that such payment be a portion of the purchase price or net profit arising from the use of the resources for manufacturing or research.
The guidelines suggest that benefit-sharing—which may be monetary or non-monetary in nature—be in accordance with the terms and conditions negotiated between the providers and users. The draft norms also allow for NBA to intervene if an agreement is inadequate.
But the industry is not happy with the draft guidelines. The government has not considered several practical problems faced by the industry, said Ranjit Puranik, general secretary of Ayurvedic Drug Manufacturers Association, a national lobby representing nearly 330 local Ayurvedic and herbal drug makers.
“The compliance requirements in terms of procurement of natural resources and benefit-sharing has overlooked practical issues such as valuation of these materials that actually go into the final product, involvement of third parties, etc.,” he said, adding that the host of compliances would discourage industry players from entering the segment.
A senior executive from Hindustan Unilever Ltd, which is one of the key players in the food and nutritional products market, said on condition of anonymity that “the draft guidelines would need significant revision as it lacks a pragmatic approach on several issues”.
The inclusion of herbs and plants cultivated by the manufacturers themselves for captive use within the purview of these norms is inappropriate, said Ravi Prasad, deputy chairman, Himalaya Drug Co., India’s second largest herbal drugs and nutrition company by sales, next only to Dabur India Ltd.
He added that the sourcing and distribution system described in the draft would create procedural lacunae and unnecessary delay for industrial users who would have to seek approval from a central nodal agency.
A Dabur spokesperson declined comment, saying, “The draft notification is being discussed with Amam (Association of Manufactures of Ayurvedic Medicines), and an appropriate response would be submitted to the government by the association soon.”
P. Pushpangadan, director general of Amity Institute for Herbal and Biotech Products Development and the former director of Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, said the calculation of revenue potential for fixing the benefit-share cannot be done with a standard parameter as mentioned in the draft.
Since it has to be done on a case-by-case basis, the guidelines should be flexible in this regard, he added.