The Times of India reports that a Brazilian team has made an application to the National Biodiversity Authority to obtain 5,000 units of the germplasm of the Ongole Bull, a species of cattle indigenous to Andhra Pradesh.
The Ongole Bull, which takes its name from the region where its mainly bred (the Ongole Taluka in southern Andhra Pradesh) is a large species of cattle which serves well in draught prone areas. This makes it naturally popular in AP, where it is used in farming, milking as well as for meat. For years now, the bull has been exported to Brazil, where its meat is highly popular and is sold to other countries at high profit margins.
S.3 of the Biological Diversity Act requires previous approval of the National Biodiversity Authority for foreigners to obtain any biological resources (which includes animals and their by-products) or knowledge associated thereto for research or commercial utilization. However, for years now, the bulls have allegedly been exported to Brazil through parallel channels. In 2012, ports in AP and West Bengal were put on high alert to stop the export of these bulls, and cases were booked under the Cruelty to Animals (Prevention) Act and Illegal Transportation of Animals (Prevention) Act.
Now, a ‘brazilian team’ has made an application to the NBA to import 5,000 units of the Ongole Bull’s germplasm. The NBA has reportedly sought more information regarding the purpose of usage, etc. If their request is allowed, the NBA will have to ensure that the terms of approval includes a scheme for equitable benefit sharing between the Brazilian team and the local bodies concerned. This is to prevent a situation where the owners of the cattle in India are exploited by being paid a meagre for the germ plasm, in comparison with the profits ultimately made. According to the Times of India, these bulls are presently sold by farmers for 3-4 lakh rupees to agents in Brazil, from where it sells for around Rs.3-4 crore in Brazil.
Since its inception in 2006, the NBA has approved a total of 32 requests for access to biological resources for research and commercial purposes out of 162 applications received. Of these, 84 are still under process. The backlog can perhaps be accounted for at least partly because the official Guidelines for access to biological resources and benefit sharing were notified only in November, 2014. We have to wait and watch under what terms the germplasm of the Ongole Bull will be allowed legal entry into Brazil, if allowed at all.