Bija Swaraj is our Birthright and we shall defend it with our life. For Seed is life and without the seed their can be no life. It is a gift of Mother Nature that has sustained the Indian civilisation for over 8000 years. In our culture the seed is sacred and revered as the progenitor of life and not a commodity. But in a few short years, the entry of global agro-business and biotech corporations in the seed market in India have eroded our seed diversity and seed sovereignty. In a short span of 40 years, the indigenous knowledge of seed saving and seeds have been forgotten. Indian women and women farmers are no longer the keepers of biodiversity and nutrition. Agro-tech corporations and the seed salesmen now impose their seeds, pesticides and other chemicals on our farmers. This has started a new seed imperialism, which threatens India’s food sovereignty and freedom.
A good example of this seed colonialism is that in less than two decades Monsanto now controls 95% of the cotton seed with GMO Bt cotton and has established a monopoly illegally. Monsanto has bullied our farmers and led to the destruction of thousands of years of natural evolution and biodiversity of India’s native cotton varieties.
Monsanto collects huge royalties illegally,increases seed prices through market manipulation and has been trapping farmers in debt and eventually pushing them to suicide ever since Monsanto’s entry into India. About 80% of the 300,000 farmers suicide are in the Bt cotton areas. The 2015 Bt cotton failure in Punjab, resulted in losses of Rs 70,000 crore to the farmers and labours . Bt farmers reported losses of 90-95 % all across the Punjab Malwa and each day four farmers were committing suicide because of the burden of debt.
In Southern India, The Maharashtra Govt task force on Agrarian Distress has also shown that where ever BT cotton is sown there are high rate of suicides.The task force has called for a ban on Bt cotton and described it as a “killer crop”.
Violating India’s sovereignty, Monsanto is blatantly manipulating Indian policies and replacing them with its corporate agenda. Monsanto is making up its own laws, its own rights, and robbing farmers of their rights enshrined in the Indian constitution.
India is a country that has stood for her farmers and biodiversity, and not for corporate greed and dacoity. To ensure plant variety protection and farmers rights India has a laws titled Plant Variety Protection and Farmers Rights Act 2001, the only country
to have a law with farmers rights in it’s name. The law has the following clause on Farmers Rights:
“a farmer shall be deemed to be entitled to save, use, sow, resow,
exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety
protected under this Act in the same manner as he was entitled before
the coming into force of this Act”
— Navdanya (@NavdanyaBija) August 29, 2016
When the Government finally acted on 8th March,2016 to regulate Bt cotton seed prices based on the Essential Commodities Act, Monsanto and its lobby group
ABLE challenged the government order based on farmers fundamental rights and the government duty to protect farmers life and livelihoods .The Courts ruled in the favour of farmers and they lost the case.
Next, Government tried to bring out a detailed notification on seed royalties and licenses. This put a limit on the royalties and lowered the seed prices. But the notification was put on hold because of ABLE’s lobbying .
Further the corporate lobbyists of Monsanto in India, and the US government are putting pressure on India to change our laws that protect our Biodiversity and farmers Rights. The policy they want is one, that opens us Indian thousands of years of biodiversity and traditional knowledge up for corporate grab through patenting. They want to now make corporations the custodians of India’s biodiversity heritage, so they can extract profits from the sweats of our ancestors and sacred nature.
This New IPR policy has been made for this purpose under pressure from the US government and corporations.
But as Indians, where 60% of brothers and sisters are directly depended on the seed and agriculture, we can never forget that Seeds are our life. Seeds are our livelihoods and seeds are truly our Annadatta and gods. These seeds ensure abundance, food and prosperity for us all. They have been the base of our Indian civilisation. Now they are essential commodities the government must regulate to not allow predatory multinational corporations to steal our seeds and lives.
We will not allow corporations to steal our seeds , our knowledge , our lives and our democracy.
We conclude with, Bija Swaraj is our birthright and we shall defend this right by all means necessary. We call out to all those who have been born in India to join the Seed Satyagraha to defend this freedom and our free our seeds from this bio-imperialism.
We call out to all to join the Jaivik Kranti to save India from an agrarian, ecological and health and malnutrition crisis.
Price and royalties of Bt cotton seeds will increase.
Farmers’ shared “commons” will be privatised by corporations. The Bt Cotton model of revenue extraction will be applied to other seeds, (hybrid & native) and the price seeds will increase.
Traditional knowledge of Ayurveda,etc will become patentable and US corporation will profit for India’s indigenous knowledge.
India will enter a new age of food and seed imperialism which will be controlled by US corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Cargill.
India will lose its sovereignty and heed to the demands of corporations on issues of IPRs, Biodiversity and Farmers’ Rights.
Seed is life and farmers as traditional seed breeders they have the rights to their biodiversity. Our Biodiversity Heritage is our ‘collective commons’. We reject all patents on our seeds, our biodiversity and our life.
Traditional knowledge and knowledge systems have been evolved by our ancestors and continue to develop as shared property. We reject the hijack our knowledge by corporate agenda and monopoly.
As farmers, consumers and citizens we have the right to control our market. The government should control of the prices of Bt Cotton seeds and not allow Monsanto to collect illegal and exploitative royalties. We reject monsanto’s control over our seeds prices.
India should honour the integrity of her people and not bow to pressure from rouge nations and corporation to amend her Biodiversity Act, Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act. We reject the new notification for the IPR law.