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The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority

of India Bill, 2013

Bill will set up an independent authority

Authority will regulate products and processes of Biotechnology and certify that the product is safe





Transport including import and export


Bill doesnt specify for any liability, the tribunal and the court will decide the liability


Is about manipulation of genetic structure of organisms. This results in change in specific traits

Ex: Bt Cotton which produces an insecticide that kills certain pests that eat it or production of
synthetic insulin for human consumption

Currently biotechnology is regulated by


Ministry of Environment and Forests

Department of Biotechnology under Ministry of Science and Technology

Biotechnology is governed under the rules of The Environmental Protection Act 1986

How BRAI will work / the institutional setup?

Field trials of the modified products (which could be organisms) will only be conducted after permission
from BRAI

For a drug or vaccine with elements of biotechnology, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation
(CDSCO) will forward the application to BRAI to assess whether it is safe to proceed with a clinical trial.
Clinical trials will continue to be regulated by the CDSCO under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

The Bill amends the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which regulates the manufacture, import, sale
and distribution of food items. The amendment mandates that food items with elements of biotechnology
have to be approved by BRAI as safe for human consumption

BRAI will not disclose confidential commercial information made available to it in an application for
authorisation. This is regardless of anything contained in the Right to Information Act, 2005.

BRAI will comprise of three units:

Risk Assessment Unit (RAU): The RAU will undertake science - based safety assessments of the
applications (applications seeking authorisation for research, transport, import, manufacture or
use of products and organisms of biotechnology)

Product Rulings Committee (PRC): the report of the RAU will be forwarded to the PRC and the
PRC will make recommendations regarding the safety of the product or organism

Environmental Appraisal Panel (EAP): BRAI may refer an application to the EAP, in case of
products or organisms having an environmental impact

BRAI will constitute an Enforcement Unit consisting of monitoring officers for enforcing its decisions

the three regulatory divisions


agriculture, forest and fisheries

human health and veterinary products

industrial and environmental applications

Each of these will be headed by a Chief Regulatory Officer (CRO)

Disputes will be heard at Biotechnology Regulatory Appellate Tribunal

Tribunal will have civil jurisdiction

Appeal against the tribunal will be made in Supreme Court

Tribunal will consist of 1 judicial member and 5 technical members having expertise in Biotechnology

Biotechnology Regulation Present Scenario

Biotechnology has its benefits and drawbacks

Benefits of this technology include the introduction of characteristics such as drought resistance, pest
resistance, or high iron content in a plant

Risks include adverse impact on the health of organisms that consume these products, and the
environment and biodiversity.

Any regulatory structure for the sector will need to balance the benefits with the risks and ensure the safe
use of biotechnology

The Bill envisages an independent scientific risk assessment to be undertaken by experts in the field of

Comparison of the current regulatory approval system under the 1989 rules with the regulatory approval
system proposed under the Bill



BRAI 2013 Bill

Kind of Authority

Govt departments give approval

Independent statutory body gives approval







Transport including import and



Transport including import and export



Oversight of the

Every entity conducting research needs to

Statutory body will do

research process

setup Institutional Biosafety Committee

Approval Bodies

Final approval by Genetic Engineering

Single regulator comprising of a number of

Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

units such as
the RAU, PRC and EAP


No provision

Three divisions:



agriculture, forests and fisheries;


human health and veterinary; and


industrial and

environmental applications
Assessment of

GEAC approves proposals for release of



products into the environment including


field trials

Qualification of

Ministry officials and representatives of

Individuals with scientific expertise in the area


government scientific/technical bodies


Monitoring and

No provision

Enforcement Unit will enforce decisions of

enforcement body

BRAI and ensure compliance with rules and


State and district

State body investigates and takes action

State body is the nodal agency for interaction

level bodies

for violation of law through the State

between the state government and BRAI.


No provision for district level body.




committee monitors safety regulations in

installations engaged in the use of such

No provision

Judicial body

Decisions of BRAI will be made public and

public scrutiny will be invited

Authority to be notified by MoEF. National

Appeals to be heard by the Biotechnology

Green Tribunal (NGT) has jurisdiction in


some cases.

Appellate Tribunal.

International Regulations

The Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety mandate rigorous
scientific regulation to ensure safe use of biotechnology

In USA and Canada, the government departments of agriculture, health, environment and food regulate
biotechnology. Both countries use existing laws and agencies rather than creating a specialised regulatory

Australia has set up an independent regulator

Determination of Liability

The primary function of liability regimes is to provide compensation to affected parties and incentivise the
industry to minimise the risks of adverse impact. There are different types of liability regimes. In some
cases, liability is specified in a law (statutory liability). In other cases, courts decide that the polluter
should compensate

The Bill does not specify any liability regime. Therefore, it will remain open to the courts to determine the
general civil liability arising out of any adverse impact of modern biotechnology.

The Nagoya Supplementary Protocol has stated that countries should have a liability regime for living
modified organisms

USA and Canada have not specified any liability

Australia and Norway in its statute regulating biotechnology, has specified strict liability for genetically
modified organisms

Recommendation of Various Committees

Swaminathan Task Force on Agriculture

An autonomous regulatory commission should be created with expertise in Biotechnology and Biosafety

Work of the committee (testing, evaluation and approval) should be scientific

Agriculture is a state subject, a state body should be there to bring cohesiveness with the centrl body

CD Mayee Committee on Bt-Cotton

Regulatory Committee should have technical expertise

Agriculture is a state subject so state agricultural department and institutions as universities should be
involved in testing, evaluation, approval and monitoring of field trials

Mashelkar Committee on Recombinant Drugs

Overlap in approval process of GEAC and Drugs Controller General of India has led to ambiguity

An independent regulator is needed

Supreme Court on Agriculture

Independent regulatory system is required

Regulators should implement a robust scientific review mechanism through a dedicated and qualified

Mandatory consultation should be held with states to seek permission for field trials. Most of the
responsibility for the maintenance and operation at the field level should be given to the states.


Though the Bill brings the regulation of biotechnology under the powers of the Union. So, the states are
objecting that Union is trying to infringe the states right for example in case of agriculture. The Centre
claims that the states will still have the powers to intervene in issues like GM technology as agriculture is
something that belongs to the State list

The draft Bill attempts to bypass the Right to Information Act (RTI) under the garb of being Confidential
Commercial Information. Activists say that biosafety information cannot be confidential and the
Supreme Court has already set a precedent for this in the Bt Brinjal case. RTI has time and again helped
activists and civil society expose or get information on field trials of GMOs at various areas, which will be
impossible if BRAI becomes law.

Conflict of Interest: The ministry of Science and Technology, which is in charge of promoting genetically
modified organisms in India like it promotes any other science and technology venture, is the regulating
authority as the draft Bill proposes to set up the BRAI under the ministry. Activists view that as a clear
case of conflict of interest. The Bt Brinjal file sailed through various ministries, including science and
technology, without a hitch. It was stalled by the environment ministry alone. Now the government is
trying to give a fast track single window clearance for genetically modified organisms through this Bill

Deviation from Task Force Report: The task force on agricultural biotechnology, headed by M S
Swaminathan, laid six cornerstones. They include well being of farming families, economic and
environmental sustainability, bio-security and trade security. None of these has been taken into account
while drafting the Bill.

Ashutosh Katiyar