Gadkari bats to exclude bio-stimulant industry from strict license norms

Labourers sort onions after harvesting at a field. Photo: PTI
The move to regulate the bio-stimulant industry by including it as part of the Fertilizer Control Order of 1986, through an amendment, seems to have driven a wedge within the sector. While one section of the industry wants less stringent clearances and licensing, the other is completely opposed to any sort of controls.

According to sources, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, in a letter written last month to agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, had strongly opposed the requirement for stringent technical and scientific research data before seeking a license to produce bio-stimulants as per the amendments.

Bio-stimulants refer to any substance or microorganisms that stimulate the natural growth process of a plant. As the name suggests, the substance has be natural, not chemical.

Gadkari said the cost of producing such data as specified in the Fertilizer Control Order for bio-stimulants could go up to Rs 20-25 lakh and take 3-4 years for approval, which is out of reach for bio-stimulant makers. This is because most of them are small and medium enterprises in rural and semi-urban areas.

“It will be very challenging for the universities to provide testing facilities for 8,000-10,000 small bio-stimulant manufactures in order to generate the required data,” the letter said.

Gadkari went on to add that he has personally experienced the bio-stimulant products, stating that they have no side effects and that they are beneficial for farmers.

Another section within the bio-stimulant industry, which consists of association such as agriculture input manufacturers association (AIM) feels there should be some regulations for the industry, but not as stringent as that for chemical fertilisers.

Their argument is that including bio-stimulants under the Fertilizer Control Order of 1986, as proposed by the government, will bring it under the Essential Commodities Act. That is something bio-stimulants should not be subjected to, as they are organic in nature.

The association contended that when the government included microorganisms and bio-fertilisers under the Control Order of 1986, they were not subjected to stringent regulations and did require lengthy research data for product approval, so why bio-stimulants are a category being signaled out.

The industry has also opposed crop-specific and multi-location trials for bio-stimulants because such materials just stimulate growth by influencing the physiological process of plant and does nothing to alter them.

For clearance, officials, said the industry is not opposing trials but instead of multi-location, multi-season for each crops, bio-stimulants should be subjected to three dose, single location trial for all crops.

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