Jayashree Nandi, TNN | Mar 7, 2014, 12.50PM IST
NEW DELHI: Farmers from 15 states are all set to form a national seed savers network that will be one of the largest repositories of seeds for crops and vegetables in India. The aim of this network of about 100 individuals will be to access germplasm from the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) and agricultural universities so that corporations cannot claim intellectual property rights (IPR) on traditional Indian crops.
The move to form a network, they say is a reaction against the recent approval given to field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF).
Though the network will be formally launched at a biodiversity festival in Delhi on Saturday, the members of the network already have a mind-boggling collection of seeds. Vijay Jardhari of Beej Bachao Andolan for instance already has 350 varieties of hill (pahari) rice, 220 varieties of kidney beans and many others. "The network is based on a very old system that farmers used to follow when agricultural universities had not taken over seeds. They used to exchange seeds amongst each other. The network will supply and collect seeds from farmers. We believe that the go-ahead given to field trials is not just dangerous for farmers but unconstitutional. There is a supreme court moratorium on field trials," he said.
Anupam Pal from Agricultural Training Centre in Phulia, West Bengal has about 500 varieties of traditional rice. "About 5,000 varieties of rice are already lost. The ones that are lost are gone forever. We are now desperately trying to save those that exist in remote farms," says Pal. His collections are mainly of "folk" rice that he claims are way more nutritious than modern varieties. "Each rice variety has unique nutritional qualities. For instance some have high iron content while some are high in vitamin B complex. They are also of different colours. We have managed to distribute 126 such traditional varieties to farmers from other parts of West Bengal. Pal says that the West Bengal government has assured them that GM field trials will not be allowed in the state.
Farmers such as one from Auroville who keeps 100 rare varieties of vegetables, a farmer from Karnataka who has revived 23 varieties of organic cotton, tribal farmers from Jharkhand with 80 varieties of desi Maize and many others will be part of the network.
According to Kavitha Kuruganti of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), the network will act against biopiracy by keeping all kinds of seeds in circulation among farmers all the time. "It's to keep a check on companies or research organizations from making patents and depriving small framers from seeds."
The network will be holding a biodiversity festival on March 8 and 9 where 2,300 varieties of seeds will be on display. It will be held at Sri Aurobindo Society in Delhi.
What will the national seed savers network do?
Access germplasms from the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) and all agricultural universities.
Germplasm is a collection of genetic resources for an organism. For plants, it could be seeds, leaves, stem or other parts.
Prevent biopiacy by ensuring a large bank of traditional seeds and by campaigning against intellectual property rights (IPR) on genetic resources by corporations.
85 seed savers and farmers from 14 states will be a part of the network.
Highlights of the upcoming biodiversity festival:
Beej Bachao Andolan will display 220 varieties of kidney beans, 350 varieties of hill (pahari) rice, 32 varieties of wheat, 8 varieties of black eyed peas.
Save Our Rice has already revived 800 varieties of rice, will display most of them.
Nagappa Nimbegode from Karnataka will display 23 desi cotton, 16 millets and 14 rare vegetables.
Anupam Paul from West Bengal will display 'Jugal' ---two rice in a single paddy grain.
Sundarban seed savers group will display 30 varieties of salt-tolerant rice.
Pebble Garden from Auroville will display 50 varieties of rare vegetable seeds.