India: Seed farmers, especially those who are women, with little to celebrate on Independence Day 05 Print E-mail
"Farmers, especially women, have always held a subsistence perspective of agriculture through which they have expressed their deep commitment to safeguard the carrying capacity of the land and have refrained from making rapacious demands on it. The rapacious demand on land and nature is the hallmark of the Green Revolution model of agriculture which has for the first time introduced seed as a commodity. Within this subsistence perspective, seed is seen as sacrosanct & is definitely not for sale. The life-giving seed is for that very reason revered and grown in continuance of life – for food & fodder.
There have been many voices raised in protest. But those protesting in the name of farmers must be clear what they are fighting for. Are they opposed to the proposed seed regulation because it does not make separate criteria for farmers’ seeds for sale?  Is the fight about navigating a niche in the official seed market? Or is it that no waiver of costs or fees is made for farmers? Or is it really the larger issue of limits being imposed to farmer freedom? The freedom to choose to do what she pleases with her seeds is regarded as inherent to a farmer’s freedom. Freedom means being free in all respects, not fettered by conditionality"
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DECCAN DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY
Village Pastapur, Mandal Zaheerabad, Medak District, 522 220, Andhra Pradesh, India
Tel: +91-8451 282271,  Tel: +91-8451 550001;+91-8451 282785; Fax: +91-8451 281725 
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Dear All
Today is the Independence Day in India. It is 58 years since we got our freedom. From the British imperialism which entered us via a trading body called East India Company ostensibly to facilitate commerce but stayed onto to give us the first glimpse of colonial rule for the next four centuries.

History is repeating itself and day by day the Indian government is voluntarily courting the new imperialism. Indian middle classes salivating at what FDIs, Sensexes and Walmarts can offer this country have swallowed the bait completely. The new imperialism is making the Indian agrarian community its first target and aggressively
working towards enslaving it. Every new law passed by the Indian lawamakers is aimed at facilitating this process. One of the latest legal tools under design is the Seed Bill.

Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion in this country, primarily within the civil society groups over this seed bill.

People who are genuinely concerned about seeds and farmers are articulating their opposition to proposed seed bill. It is a strong and authentic articulation.

But we have a slight sense of discomfort with this articulation. In order to fight this Bill, we sometimes wonder whether we are unwittingly endorsing some of the basic issues such as IPRS which we have fought all along. The people who are fighting the Seed Bill seem to be endorsing the Indian PVP Law which is a product of the UPOV and strongly stands by IPRs.

We think that we must not take a false step.

There are two things that we like to caution us about. One is the endorsement of IPR principles by calling for the implementation of the Indian PVP legislation.

And the second is reversing the NPoL principle by arguing for farmers right to brand and trade their seeds. This is an extremely crucial and sacred principles which we should never lose sight of. The very fact that a large number of civil society activists in South Asia fight for no patent on life is because seed is a sacred entity in this
part of the world. If this is branded and sold, even if by farmers, we will be trampling over the sacredness of our agrarian culture.

We have attached a short statement that we would like you to take a look at and if possible endorse.

I must acknowledge the major role of Shalini Bhutani of GRAIN in drafting this statement

with warm regards
satheesh
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TEXT OF ATTACHMENT
SEED FREEDOM
Independence from Regulation

Small farmers in India have little to celebrate this Independence Day. In our republic today an increasingly number of rules & regulations impinging on farmer freedom are being put in place.

If you consider seed as a business then you need rules regulating that business. Seed laws have always been rules governing the commercialisation of seeds. Worldwide seed regulations are about creating conditions for the private seed industry to gain and control markets. India’s Seeds Bill, 2004 too seeks to regulate the seed market.

For some, saying the words “seed” and “trade” together itself is an anomaly! Farmers, especially women, have always held a subsistence perspective of agriculture through which they have expressed their deep commitment to safeguard the carrying capacity of the land and have refrained from making rapacious demands on it. The rapacious demand on land and nature is the hallmark of the Green Revolution model of agriculture which has for the first time introduced seed as a commodity. Within this subsistence perspective, seed is seen as sacrosanct & is definitely not for sale. The life-giving seed is for that very reason revered and grown in continuance of life – for food & fodder.

There have been many voices raised in protest. But those protesting in the name of farmers must be clear what they are fighting for. Are they opposed to the proposed seed regulation because it does not make separate criteria for farmers’ seeds for sale?  Is the fight about navigating a niche in the official seed market? Or is it that no waiver of costs or fees is made for farmers? Or is it really the larger issue of limits being imposed to farmer freedom? The freedom to choose to do what she pleases with her seeds is regarded as inherent to a farmer’s freedom. Freedom means being free in all respects, not fettered by conditionality.

Likewise, farmers’ rights – absolute & above all – not circumscribed by intellectual property rights, for instance. The Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers’ Right Act, 2001 an existing seed regulation details “farmers rights”, but within an IPR framework. Seeds laws go hand in hand with intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes like plant variety protection and patents. The concept of IPRs perpetrate the view that anything & everything – including seed & plants, can be privatised & governed by a set of monopoly rights regulation. PVP-protected seed varieties can only be sold by those claiming to have developed them. While the seed law tends to ensure that seeds not produced by the seed industry cannot freely circulate, the PVP law ensures that those not protected by IPR cannot freely circulate either. Rejecting the Seed Bill while & in such rejection, accepting the PVP law is therefore not making an argument for freedom.

What need to be regulated to allow for farmer-led agriculture are the actions of corporations, scientists & the State itself.

The informal way of life around the field has laws of its own. Disrupting that is like disturbing the delicate balance of nature itself. Farmer-controlled seed systems are best regulated by farmers themselves.

Regulation on small farm life & liberties in the name of the market is trading away independence.