Since 1991, Navdanya has organized farmers through the Bija Satyagraha Movement to keep seed in farmer’s handand to not cooperate with IPR Laws that make seed a corporate monopoly and make seed saving and seed sharing a crime. In 1993, half a million farmers participated in a historic Bija Satyagraha rally at Bangalore’s Cuban’s Park. This was the first international protest against WTO.
In March 1999, Navdanya reasserted the Bija Satyagraha Movement with over 2500 groups to defend farmers’ rights and seed freedom in the face of biopiracy and seed monopolies. Satyagraha, or the fight for truth was woven into India’s freedom struggle.
Bija Satyagraha is
- a grass-roots campaign on patent issues,
- an assertion to people’s rights to biodiversity and
- a determination not to co-operate with IPR systems that make seed saving and seed exchange a crime
Navdanya spearheaded the movement to protect the farmer’s rights of seed saving and exchange. Navdanya organized several seminars, yatras, signature campaigns to create awareness amongst the farmers and also to sensitize the policy makers and politicians of the country. In September 2000, over 400 farmers from all over the world came together at the unique Beej Panchayat (People’s Seed Tribunal) to give evidence of the crisis of seed and agriculture in the wake of globalization, that is pushing small farmers to suicide. Today the Bija Satyagraha has spread through large number of communities and groups all the country.
Responding to the deepening crisis, RFSTE and Navdanya took the initiative to organize a BijaYatra (Seed March) in the year 2000 with the focus on Seed Rights, Seed Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture. Navdanya’s Bija Yatras have created awareness through seed fairs, seed exchange programs and initiation of new community seed banks.
Under the Bija Satyagraha campaign, Navdanya / RFSTE along with other several organizations, as part of this campaign, achieved a major victory when seed giant Syngenta tried to grab Dr. Richharia’s precious collection of over 22,972 rice germplasms. The biotech giant had signed a MoU with the Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya in oder to have access to the priceless collection of rice diversity.
We have been organizing Bija Panchayat, in different parts of the country against the existing IPRs laws, i.e. Patent Act, Seed Act, the PVP Act and Biodiversity Act, to articulate the people’s voice so that the whole discussion and policy on the seed is not determined by the corporate sector and interests driver by profit motives. Navdanya, RFSTE and West Bengal Institute of Juridical Sciences drafted an alternative IPR law, which provides sovereign rights to the nation over its genetic resources and give recognitions to the local community over its biodiversity.
To counter the globalised IPR system to be implemented at the national level, Navdanya conceptualized the idea of Common Property Rights in Knowledge as early as in 1993 to counter the private IPRs system and to prevent biopiracy. RFSTE/ Navdanya drafted model laws, which were then used and further developed by the Third World Network and the Organization of African Unity for creating sui generis options based on community rights to TRIPs.
In 2005, Navdanya with its partners undertook Bija Satyagraha campaigns to declare non-cooperation with the new Patent Laws, which allows patent on life and the proposed Seed Act, which would criminalize farmers.
In response to the varied attacks on farmer's livelihoods, Navdanya organized Bija Yatras through Maharastra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in 2006, and through Bihar, Jharkhand, M.P., U.P. and Rajasthan in 2008, to promote an agriculture of hope that uses heritage seeds and farmers' agroecological knowledge. Farmers of these regions have been locked into a dependence on corporate seeds to supply cash crops to world markets, which has led to the collapse of farm incomes due to inability to compete with the agriculture of the rich countries that receive up to 400 billion dollars in subsidies