|Celebrating 25 years of Navdanya|
Meeting on Bija Swaraj (Seed Freedom) – July 4th, 2012
The seed is a free resource that through human history farmers have saved, bred and exchanged freely. It is inseparable from the community’s culture and traditional knowledge. The seed and the plant it produces are the storage containers of community values-the new seeds are worshipped before they are planted and new crops are worshipped before being consumed.
The meaning of seed changed with the implementation of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS Agreement) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This opened the door to the introduction of GMOS, patents on seed and the collection of royalties. Seed as a living commons became a commodity packaged by private seed companies, traded on a market controlled by monopolies.
The Green Revolution is based on a false assumption that scientists’ seed varieties are superior to farmers’ varieties. The High Yielding Varieties (HYV) created during this time are actually High Responsive Varieties which require enormous amount of chemical pesticides, fertilizers and water. Farmers’ seeds can produce more yield than HYVs if cultivated in an ecologically sustainable manner. The GM crops didn’t contribute to food security, as per our report The GMO Emperor has no Clothes. In this context we argue that the basis of food sovereignty is seed sovereignty.
Today, the threat to seed freedom is great. About 95 percent of India’s cotton seed market is controlled by Monsanto. Most of the 250,000 farmers who committed suicide are from the cotton belt, heralding genocide by the agro-biotech companies. Now there is an attempt to facilitate the biopiracy of all the genetic resources of the country beyond just the cotton seed. The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) is planning to collaborate with Multinational Seed Companies which would enable them access to ICAR’s massive seed bank containing 400,000 varieties of native germplasms. “The Indian Council of Agriculture Research would offer its partners its massive seed gene bank in exchange for expertise and a share of the profits, stated ICAR deputy director general Swapan K. Datta”.
When corporations patent seeds and plants, they actually pirate indigenous knowledge claiming it as their own. The patents on Neem, Basmati, Wheat that Navdanya challenged and won, are examples of the epidemic of Biopiracy. Even the Bt Brinjal patent pirated the indigenous brinjal varieties. The government is trying to replace India’s current bio-safety laws with a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill, which would rob the citizens of their right to bio-safety.
This trend clearly shows that the country is going through a seed emergency. Within this context, Navdanya is intensifying the Bija Swaraj (seed sovereignty) movement which has been the very basis of its foundation for the past 25 years, at both the national and global level. At a time like this, we need farmers, not Multinational Corporations to protect our genetic diversity.
Navdanya is responding to this situation through taking the following actions:
1. Create a National and Global alliance for seed freedom; people committing themselves to the seed freedom declaration.
2.Bija Swaraj Yatras ( Seed Freedom Pilgrimages) undertaken from July 5th to August 30th
Bundelkhand- 5th to 8th of July
Maharshtra- 23rd to 28th of July
Latin America- 30th July to 3rd of August
Ladakh- 12th to 16th of August
Jharkhand- 17th to 19th of August
3. A report written by *** and scientist involved in participatory seed breeding, and ***/ activists defending seed freedom /seed sovereignty to be released on the 1st of October at Bhoomi: The Earth Festival at IIC, New Delhi and worldwide.
4. A fortnight of intense actions for seed freedom from Ghandi’s birth anniversary on October 2nd to World Food Day on October 16th across the world.
On this note, we hope that you can provide your support to help us spread this message to the masses and protect seed sovereignty for future generations.