Basmati Wranglings!


Definitional hurdles continue to dot the Basmati saga. Since last year the ministries of agriculture and commerce have been poring over arriving at a consensus on the definition of Basmati. Purists feel that a definition which enlarges the scope of the word to mean and include varieties based not only on attributes of the grain but also on its genetic lineage could dilute the Basamti stronghold.

And so the round robin saga continues…the agriculture ministry has issued a notification to the commerce ministry proposing a revised definition.The Rice Exporters organization are also in their fair bit pushing for extended contours of the definition that would in turn enable them to export more varieties under the Basmati brand.

The new definition, unlike the current one, proposes to base the definition of the rice variety on its attributes rather than on its genetic lineage. Vinod Prabhu, head of genetics, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR), which was involved in framing the new definition, argues that this change does not loosen the basmati stronghold.
“Attributes are inherent, which are inherited genetically,” he said. “They cannot be created from anywhere. Genetics is not invisible, it is the phenotype (physical manifestation of traits). And, the environment in which they are nurtured are equally important vis-a-vis genetics, which is why the need to specify the area in which basmati is grown.”(Livemint)

Additionally territorial concerns dominate the debate. It is contended that only varieties that
are cultivable in the Indo-Gangetic plains befit the Basmati tag. ICAR is willing to shrug this of as a trade related G.I issue.

While that seems to be the clincher point here, would it be pertinent to question whether varieties grown under techno simulated climatic conditions bearing similar attributes and lineage, qualify ??? While this may take the debate in a different direction, yet calls for examination to plug conceptual loopholes that are likely to surface.

In my opinion, whilst determining G.I issues, both territorial origin and traditional human endeavor needs to be established, prior to the G.I assignment. More often that not, the human endeavor test gets blighted in the rush to acquire the G.I denomination.

We do not have any clear comment on this matter from any quarter as yet!

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