Seed Fest 2017 Calls for Protection of Genetic Wealth and Seed Sovereignty

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Seed Fest 2017, a unique three-day exhibition of local seed diversity, along with serious seminars on multiple aspects related to seed diversity, conservation of local seed diversity and the significance of community seed banks calls for the protection of genetic wealth and conservation of local seed diversity to compliment the larger efforts for ensuring food and nutrition security. The seminars held in connection with Seed Fest observed that involvement of local self-governments in Agrobiodiversity conservation is a must. It was also observed that establishing community seed banks under Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at the Panchayath level is a must to complement the larger efforts of biodiversity conservation. The seminar sought cooperation between Government bodies, Research organizations, NGOs, and Farming Community towards the conservation of local seed diversity.
Dr.B.S.Thirumeni IAS, Hon.District Collector of Wayanad while interacting with discussants of the seminar said that Grama Sabha meetings are being held to register public concern at grass root level and hence people need to attend such meetings so that concerns over local biodiversity conservation can be recorded and addressed effectively.
Dr.N. Anil Kumar, Senior Director, M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation opined that only through the empowerment of local self-governments (LSGs), comprehensive conservation of local diversity can be made possible. “Protection of genetic wealth is the need of the hour, and it is high time farmers, NGOs and LSGs join hands together in Agrobiodiversity conservation efforts. The farming community and scientific community together must devise strategies to check genetic erosion ”, he said. Dr.Anil Kumar added that Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at the local level can play a crucial role in seed conservation, and LSGs need to be proactive to render all possible support to BMCs.

Mr.Cheruvayal Raman, a custodian farmer and Genome Saviour Awardee, raised his concern over the negligence meted out to farming communities by government authorities. “When farmers fall prey to financial traps, how can the society expect them to take up conservation efforts?”, he lamented. He sought real action from government machineries to support farmers rather than false promises.
Ms.Prakrithi Srivastava IFS shared her views on the effective conservation of natural resources. “ Tribal communities can take a lead role in the conservation of natural resources, as the traditional knowledge they have about forest biodiversity is unparalleled. Tribal communities need to be involved in conservation activities of natural resources by the government authorities” said Ms. Prakrithi IFS. Dr.S.Pradeep Kumar, Member Secretary, Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) said that there is an urgent need to conserve local seed diversity, and KSCSTE wishes to be a part of all such initiatives that focus on the conservation of local seed diversity. “ The efforts MSSRF takes in Agrobiodiversity conservation are highly commendable, and KSCSTE has initiated necessary steps to consider MSSRF as one of its Grant in Aid Institutes”, he said. He added that in the next Plant Budget KSCSTE shall be earmarking funds to promote research in the conservation of local seed diversity.

Dr.V.Balakrishnan, Head, Community Agrobiodiversity Centre (CAbC), MSSRF presented the consolidation report of Panchayath level discussion held in connection with Seed Fest. He pointed out that Biodiversity Management Committees need to be empowered, and there should be farmer associations at Panchayath level to foster local biodiversity conservation activities. “Linkage between agricultural department and forest department is highly recommended, and research organization and government machineries need to render both technical and non-technical help to farming community”, Dr.Balakrishnan added.
Dr.P.E.Rajasekharan, Principal Scientist, Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore stressed on the need to conserve traditional seed diversity. “Traditional seed varieties are climate smart. Their ability to withstand climate change is unique. By establishing community seed banks, local seed diversity can be conserved effectively” he added. He also said that government authorities need to take initiatives to provide technical support to community seed banks.

Dr. Thomson Jacob, National Biodiversity Authority said that Biodiversity Management Committees can play crucial role in conservation of local plant and animal diversity. He added that National Biodiversity Authority shall render support to LSGs to establish BMCs. “By establishing community seed banks under BMCs, biodiversity conservation activities can be implemented seamlessly” said Dr. Thomson Jacob
Adv. Dr Prabha S.Nair, Consultant, National Biodiversity Authority pointed out that, seed industries are always on the lookout for traditional seeds so as to modify them genetically and produce high yielding varieties. ““Multinational seed companies need local seed varieties for their Research and Development (R&D) experiments to turn such varieties to high yielding ones. This poses a serious threat to the existence of local varieties. Should custodian farmers retain their rights over their local seed varieties, farmers need to be conferred with appropriate rights by law”, she said.

The three day Seed Fest which began on 17th February 2017 was inaugurated by Mr.C.K.Saseendran, Hon.MLA, Kalpetta constituency. The valedictory function was inaugurated by Mr.O.R.Kelu, Hon.MLA, Mananthavady constituency on 19th February 2017. 29 stalls were put up by farmers from all 23 Panchayaths in Wayanad, and three Muncipalities, as well as from Kolli Hills and Neelagiri of Tamil Nadu. The fest was marked by cultural events, photo exhibition, and active participation of general public.