India: Importing Plants Into India: Processes And Challenges

Last Updated: 31 July 2017
Article by Essenese Obhan and Charul Yadav

Plants and plant materials may be imported into India for a number of reasons, including for research purposes, commercial release, consumption or registration of plant varieties under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act 2001. The laws and regulations governing the import of plants and plant materials into India vary depending on the reason for import and the type of material being imported. This legislative and regulatory framework is designed to safeguard plant biosecurity, which is essential to ensure agricultural sustainability, food safety and environmental protection. Plant biodiversity in India is particularly critical, as the country is home to one of the world's most biodiverse ecosystems. As international trade of plants and plant materials increases, the risk of introducing exotic pests and diseases along with imported material also rises. Plant biosecurity seeks to prevent, minimise and control the introduction and spread of these pests in the course of international trade.

The volume of trade in plants and plant materials in India continues to grow. According to the statistics, the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) – one of several regulatory authorities in this space – has processed for quarantine clearance 642,671 samples of various crop plants comprising seeds, vegetative propagules, in vitro and transgenic materials, of which 499,796 (including 2,447 samples of transgenics) were imported and 142,875 were intended for export. With trade in such material likely to increase in the coming years, it is worth reviewing the legal and regulatory framework governing the import of plants and plant materials into India.

Legislative and regulatory framework

International history

The earliest plant biosafety laws were enacted in France in the 17th century in order to control the spread of wheat stem rust. Other countries, including Germany and the United States, were among the first to establish plant quarantine services. The Phylloxera Convention – the first international plant protection convention – was signed in 1881 by five countries to control the spread of Phylloxera, a North American aphid accidentally introduced into continental Europe around 1865, which subsequently devastated much of Europe's grape-growing regions. The 20th century saw much more action on this front. The International Convention for the Protection of Plants was signed in 1929, followed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) in 1951. The IPPC, which India joined in 1956, superseded all previous international agreements on plant protection and continues to govern the issue today. The IPPC seeks to develop international cooperation among countries to prevent the introduction and spread of pests through international trade and movement of plant materials. It requires each country to establish a national plant protection organisation to discharge certain defined functions. The 1989 Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade recognised the IPPC as a standard-setting organisation for the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement), which facilitates the global movement of plants and plant materials and encourages members of the World Trade Organisation to base their phytosanitary measures on IPPC standards.

In parallel with the developments regarding the IPCC and the SPS Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted in 1992. The CBD recognises the sovereign rights of all members over their biodiversity and has three key objectives:

  • the conservation of biological diversity;
  • the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity; and
  • the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a supplementary agreement to the CBD, was adopted in 2000 and is designed to protect biological diversity from potential risks posed by living modified organisms. It establishes an advance informed agreement procedure to provide countries with relevant information before agreeing to the import of living modified organisms. India is a signatory to both the CBD and the Cartagena Protocol.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is also relevant to the import of plants, as it aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. India became a member of CITES in 1979.

Indian framework

In India, the Destructive Insects and Pests Act 1914 (as amended) provides for plant protection and quarantine regulatory measures. The import of plants and plant materials is regulated under the Plant Quarantine (Regulation for Import into India) Order 2003 issued under the act. This order replaced the earlier Plants, Fruits and Seeds (Regulation of Import into India) Order 1989. Besides harmonising India's regulatory framework with the IPPC and the SPS Agreement, the Plant Quarantine Order addresses gaps in the previous Plants, Fruits and Seeds Order regarding the import of germplasm, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), transgenics, biocontrol agents and similar specimens. The Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage under the Ministry of Agriculture carries out plant quarantine operations in India.

Although the Cartagena Protocol requires signatory states to set up a regulatory body for GMOs in agriculture and food, India has yet to introduce a law or create a regulatory body for this purpose. Instead, the manufacture, import, use, research and release of GMOs are controlled and regulated by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the Department of Biotechnology of the Ministry of Science and Technology, pursuant to the 1989 rules notified under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change regulates the commercial release of GMOs through the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee.

The Department of Biotechnology deals with all aspects of transgenics research. It reviews, permits and monitors experiments which use GMOs and recombinant DNA products. There were plans to legislate on the regulation of modern biotechnology in India through the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill – which was introduced to Parliament in 2013 – but this legislation has since lapsed.

Import permissions and restrictions

The import of plant materials into India is regulated based on the purpose of import (eg, research or commercial release) or the type of plant materials (eg, vegetables or fruits, or propagating materials such as seeds, saplings or germplasm). The plant materials can be transgenic or non-transgenic. The regulatory framework applies regardless of whether the plant materials are being imported in bulk for propagation or consumption, or in small quantities for research or registration of plant varieties.

Schedules IV, V, VI and VII of the Plant Quarantine Order list the plant species whose import is regulated:

  • Prohibited plant species – Schedule IV lists the plant species that are prohibited from being imported from specified countries.
  • Restricted plant species – Schedule V lists restricted plants and plant materials, whose import is permissible only on the recommendation of authorised institutions along with additional declarations and special conditions (eg, fumigation, pre-shipment cold treatment and post-entry quarantine for a specified period).
  • Regulated plant species – Schedule VI lists the plants and plant materials that may be imported with additional declarations and special conditions.
  • Other plant species – Schedule VII lists plant species intended for consumption for which no additional declarations are specified.

No consignment of seed or grain contaminated by quarantine weeds listed in Schedule VIII may be imported. To import new commodities that are not mentioned in the Plant Quarantine Order, importers must apply to the plant protection adviser for a pest risk analysis request form.

Import process

Applications for the import of plant germplasm, transgenics or GMOs for research or experimental purposes must be submitted to the NBPGR. An import permit for transgenics or GMOs is issued subject to the approval of the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (established by the Department of Biotechnology under the 1989 rules and subject to their relevant restrictions and conditions). The NBPGR is responsible for ensuring that imported transgenic material is free from pests and terminator gene technology.

The bulk shipment of transgenic plants, plant products and GMOs is regulated by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee under the provisions of the 1989 rules or the mechanism established under the Biosafety Protocol of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

The importer must ensure that no prohibited or restricted plant species are imported (with the exception of those imported by authorised institutes). The importer must also ensure that every imported consignment of plant species is accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin, containing additional declarations as indicated for that particular plant species. Where the import of certain plants is subject to the prior approval of authorised institutions, the importer should apply for such approval well in advance. For example, certain imports require prior approval of the EXIM Committee of the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (under the Ministry of Agriculture). The committee meets once every 30 to 45 days to approve such applications. The importer should also ensure that all provisions of CITES are complied with. If any conditions or restrictions under the Plant Quarantine Order are not complied with, the imported plants or plant materials may be deported or destroyed, although the importer may be allowed a one-off relaxation, at the discretion of the plant quarantine officer, on payment of five times the import sampling fees.

Where the imports require post-entry quarantine, the importer must arrange for an appropriate quarantine facility, such as an isolated field or nursery or a greenhouse that is certified by the inspection authorities in accordance with the Plant Quarantine Order. Such facilities should be established sufficiently in advance so that they are ready for use when the imports arrive.

How efficient is the import process?

The past few years have seen considerable improvement and simplification of the import regulatory framework. The Plant Quarantine Information System (PQIS) has been introduced for online issuance of phytosanitary certificates and import release orders to importers and exporters. The PQIS is now being integrated with the customs gateway (ICEGATE) for single window facilitation. However, the PQIS has not been modified in six years and needs urgent updating.

Import procedures have also been simplified. Most critically, timelines have been stipulated for import clearance of plants and plant products and other regulated articles in order to facilitate trade. This provides greater certainty for importers and increases accountability for regulatory authorities. Another crucial procedural change is the closure of the permit system for importing plants other than those regulated by the NBPGR.

Despite some improvements in regulatory processes, the system in India remains ill equipped to handle the challenges associated with plant protection and biosafety, such as the risks of new agricultural production technologies, the emergence of transboundary diseases, climate change and bioterrorism. Further, India has been unable to keep up with its international obligations under various multilateral agreements. The Destructive Insects and Pests Act is over a century old and is inadequate to deal with the fast pace of change in this domain. The Core Committee of the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (established in 2008) pointed out that:

the Destructive Insects and Pests Act, 1914 and the Livestock Importation Act, 1898 are age old legislations and are subsidiary to the Customs Act, 1962 which does not give direct powers to the quarantine officers to deport or destroy or confiscate the consignment or lodge complaints under the Indian Penal Code. Inadequate or obsolete definitions in these Acts need to be updated.

Adequate provisions for regulating plants, livestock and aquatics and powers for inspecting transport vehicles and seizure and destruction of infested or infected plants and livestock or their products have to be incorporated. Punishment or penalty on the importer or custom house clearing agents or other defaulters for violation of provisions of the legislation has to be provided. Provisions for effective domestic quarantine have to be incorporated. The enabling legislation for the proposed biosecurity authority would have to be enacted.

The complex inter-ministerial bureaucratic and regulatory machinery designed to regulate imports and exports further complicates matters and slows down the process. India's biosecurity has been breached on several occasions, leading to the introduction of exotic pests (eg, coffee berry borers, coconut eriopyhid mites, bunchy top virus in bananas from Sri Lanka, warts on potatoes from the Netherlands, parthenium weed with wheat from the United States and Argemone mexicana weed with mustard seed from the United States and Mexico). Many plant, animal and marine diseases and pests have been introduced into India through imports of seeds, plant materials, livestock and livestock products. Many weeds (eg, parthenium, Phalaris minor and Lantana camara) have become established in the country's ecosystem and continue to cause heavy economic losses every year.

Various taskforces and committees have highlighted the need for an integrated system in India. The Department of Agriculture and Cooperation Core Committee recommended the establishment of a National Agriculture Biosecurity System, while also suggesting that a new law is needed which is more relevant to the present situation. However, subsequent attempts to legislate on the issue through the Agricultural Biosecurity Bill 2013 ultimately failed.

Many other countries have implemented strict measures for the import of plants and plant materials. The United States, Australia and New Zealand have stringent legislative and regulatory requirements for imports and integrated biosecurity systems for plant protection and biosecurity. India likewise needs a robust integrated system that not only meets these challenges, but is also consistent with international obligations.

This article first appeared in IAM Life Sciences 2017, a supplement to IAM, published by Globe Business Media Group - IP Division. To view the guide in full, please go to www.IAM-media.com.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions