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Fighting for India's 'seed freedom'

Thursday July 05, 2012 10:59:01 AM, IANS

New Delhi: Stressing that seeds are "inseparable" from the culture and traditional knowledge of farmers, an NGO fighting to protect native seeds has criticized an Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) proposal to allow multinational companies access to its seed bank.

At a meeting on Bija Swaraj (seed freedom) held here, it was stressed that the implementation of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS Agreement) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) had "opened the door to the introduction of GMOS (genetically modified organisms), patents on seed and the collection of royalties."

The seed became a "commodity packaged by private seed companies, traded on a market controlled by monopolies".

The meeting Wednesday saw participation by farmers, activists, scientists, legal experts and students who decided to "fight for the protection of seed sovereignty." The meeting, hosted by NGO Navdanya, decided to launch a movement to reclaim "India's seed freedom and biological diversity" with a Bija Satyagraha on Oct 2, Gandhi Jayanti, in New Delhi.

The participants said that ICAR's decision to collaborate with multinational seed companies "would provide the corporates access to ICAR's massive seed bank containing 400,000 varieties of native seeds developed by farmers".

"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," a statement said.

It also said the Green Revolution was "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 amounts of chemical pesticides, fertilizers and water. Farmers' seeds can produce more yield than HYVs if cultivated in an ecologically sustainable manner."

Navdanya, led by activist Vandana Shiva, is responding to this situation through taking the following actions:

* Creation of a national and global alliance for seed freedom

* Seed Freedom Pilgrimages" across the country and a campaign Oct 2-16 across the world.






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