Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beej Swaraj Conference

To save seed-agriculture and food sovereignty of country

To stop IPRs on seeds/germplasm/planting material or products

To reclaim farmers’ inherent natural right over seeds as real custodian

To protect our seeds and food from being contaminated by Genetic modification

Become a part of 3rd War of Independence, Be a savior of nation’s freedom


Beej Swaraj Conference

Monday, 30th May 2011

10 AM onwards

Punjabi Bhawan, Ludhiana

· Since a nation’s food sovereignty as well as farming communities’ livelihoods is closely linked to seed sovereignty – who controls what seed is supplied, when, in what quantities, with what restrictions, at what prices and so on. This is closely connected to allowing most seed trade to be taken over by the private sector, coupled with legal regimes that allow for exclusive marketing rights in the hands of a handful of companies, along with monocultures encouraged of a few crops and few varieties even as farmers are encouraged to move away from their traditional systems of seed breeding, selection, saving and exchange. Policy makers and planners have to appreciate the intrinsic potential dangers of such a scenario; this is further borne out by the example of cotton seed in India, where an overwhelming majority of the market today is controlled by one large seed company in numerous ways; further, non-GM cotton seed is not available in the market and seed pricing has become a vexatious issue where state governments that want to protect farmers’ interests are being confronted by the seed companies against any statutory framework that regulates price and are even threatening to stop supply of seed – meanwhile, physical seed stocks with farmers and others have disappeared during the period that they depended on company-supplied seed. This scenario is potentially possible with other crops too and Seed Sovereignty is an issue that the government has to take seriously.

· The seed industry seems to believe that their returns can be maximized and their R&D efforts rewarded only if exclusive ‘ownership’ rights are conferred, linked to marketing rights of course. Civil society groups including farmers’ organizations believe that this is antithetical to the very culture of agriculture in India, which thrived for thousands of years due to the open sharing of resources including knowledge.

· Let us demand that Agri-research and extension systems have to prioritise in their projects and outlays, varietal development and distribution; farmer-led, participatory breeding programmes are to be prioritized to address issues of quality and local suitability.

· For all those seed technologies which bring in potential environmental and health hazards, such seed should be allowed even for open air trials only if there are no other alternatives present and after biosafety has been cleared through independent, long term testing in a participatory and transparent decision-making regime. In this case too, like in Point 4, state governments should be allowed their constitutional authority over agriculture for exercising their own decisions through appropriate regulatory regimes at the state level, including licensing etc.

· Regulatory regimes should also pro-actively watch out for seed monopolies/oligopolies building up and prevent the same.

· Farming communities all over India should have first priority and access to all the germplasm collections all over the country.

Great seed keeper Farmers shall address the conference


Let us join hands to initiate a struggle to protect nation’s seed sovereignty & food self reliance All are cordially invited


Supported by:

Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture

& Coalition for GM-Free India


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