Kisan Swaraj Yatra asserts need for Seed Sovereignty: Makes a bonfire of GM seeds in Jalna

Jalna (Maharashtra)/New Delhi, October 15, 2010: On the eve of the World Food Day and on the thirteenth day of its pan-Indian outreach tour on “Food, Farmers & Freedom”, Kisan Swaraj Yatra reached Jalna in Maharashtra today and members asserted the need for seed sovereignty as an integral part of food security and sovereignty in the country. Here, hundreds of farmers and activists made a bonfire of GM seeds and protested against corporations like Mahyco, one of Monsanto’s arms in India.

“The Kisan Swaraj Yatra protests against the erosion of seed sovereignty and diversity by rapidly-expanding corporatisation of the seed sector in India, coupled with lax regulation, pro-corporate legislations that violate farmers’ a priori rights and aggressive corporate strategies promoting seed monopolies. On the other hand, public sector agencies have abdicated their role completely with regard to appropriate, affordable, diverse seed for farmers even as farmers themselves are constantly encouraged to give up their well-adapted native seeds and go in for greater seed replacement.

Cotton seed is a classic example for this – today, farmers don’t have any choices with regard to cotton other than Bt cotton brands being made available in India – an overwhelming majority of these are controlled by Monsanto. Monsanto is known for its monopolistic behaviour, as reiterated by the MRTP Commission in India in 2006, and is also being investigated in the USA for similar behaviour. Further, the constant aggressive promotion of private sector hybrids and lack of accountable work by public sector agencies means that there is near-total dependency on the companies. On another front, the regulatory frameworks are not equipped to hold any of these private sector agencies or public sector agencies accountable and liable, to uphold the interests of farmers. In the recent Seeds Bill-related discussions, the Union Agriculture Minister appeared to succumb to the threat of seed corporations who have threatened that they will not supply cotton seed anymore! The sub-licensing agreements of MNCs with their Indian partners are also encouraging such monopolies and there have been no official investigations or objections into something like this. All of this clearly jeopardizes India’s and Indian farmers’ food and seed sovereignty”, said a press release from the Kisan Swaraj Yatra.

“We have come to Jalna as part of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra with a specific purpose. We want to put out a message to fellow Indian farmers to acknowledge, appreciate and understand our own breeding abilities and improve on it, to avoid getting trapped in the web of monopolistic corporations – several experiences on the ground exemplify this and there are emerging farmer-breeder networks in the country which have farmers who have evolved very popular varieties sown by thousands of farmers. We want to put out a message to the governments that their pro-corporate, anti-farmer policies and legislations will be opposed by people and it is their responsibility to put the interests of Indian citizens, most importantly farmers, in the forefront. We want to put out a message to corporations like Monsanto – they need to quit Indian farming since it is obvious that their profiteering agendas are against farmers. We oppose their holding patents on seeds which are basic resources of farmers and we believe that their products are ultimately harmful for our fields and health. The anti-farmer nature of these companies is obvious from the cases they have filed against AP and Gujarat governments to stop them from regulating the price and royalties on seeds. Therefore, hundreds of us are here today. This bonfire of GM seeds is a symbolic gesture with this message to various constituencies”, explained Datta Kadam (Motigaon village) and Vimal tai Gofane (Tembuni village), farmers who led the protest. Farmers, speaking on the occasion, expressed their concern with regard to seed quality, pricing, accountability and so on and said that the solution forward seems to be to move towards more agro-diversity in our farms, self-reliance and locally suitable seeds, especially in the context of climate change.

The Kisan Swaraj Yatra, which set off on Gandhi Jayanti at Sabarmati Ashram commenced its journey in Maharashtra on October 13th, after covering Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, on its way to Rajghat, covering 20 states of India. Members of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) urged citizens to visit www.kisanswaraj.in and sign on the petition to save farmers, their rights and resources and in turn, save all consumers of food.

For more information, contact:
1. Kavitha Kuruganti, 09393001550
2. Kalpana Tribhuvan, Sarth Mahila Vikas Sanstha, Jalna: 098-901-05536
3. Surekha Killare, Sarth Mahila Vikas Sanstha: 099-23

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