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Seed is not just the source of life, it is the very foundation of our being. For millions of years, seed has evolved freely, to give us the diversity and richness of life on the planet. For thousands of years farmers, especially women, have evolved and bred seed freely in partnership with each other and with nature to further increase the diversity of that which nature gave us and adopt it to the needs of different cultures. Biodiversity and cultural diversity have mutually shaped one another. But in the last century, on the name of science and technological innovation the basic nature of agriculture has changed and hence, seeds which are the first link in the food chain and the repository of life’s future evolution changed. Seeds from traditionally a common good became a commodity of private companies and traded in the open markets. Seeds now a days have sphere of dominance by private companies and industries.
Now 73% of world’s seed supply is patented by big corporations and therefore turning the global commercial seed market into a multibillion dollar industry. Henry Kissinger have said that “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people”, and this what happened in the agriculture. Seeds have been captured and now dominated by multinational companies and science both. The dominance in the field is both on the level of science and the level of economy. Innovations like GMO and “golden rice” have been projected as the best and the only choice for farmers. We have been repeatedly told that genetically engineered (GE) crops will save the world by increasing yields and producing more food. They will save the world by controlling pests and weeds. They will save the world by reducing chemical use in agriculture. They will save the world with GE drought tolerant seeds and other seed traits that will provide resilience in times of climate change. But all are false claims if we see the experience of agriculture all over the world. There have been a rapid erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty, and the concentration of control over seed by a very small number of giant corporate companies such as Monsanto.
Besides displacing and destroying diversity, patented GMO seeds are also undermining seed sovereignty, the rights of farmers to grow their own seeds and to save and exchange seed. In countries across the world, including in India, new seed laws are being introduced which enforce compulsory registration of seed, thus making it impossible for small farmers to grow their own diversity, and forcing them into dependency on giant seed corporations. As farmer’s seed supply is eroded, and farmers become dependent on patented GMO seed, the result is indebtedness. Farmer suicides because of BT cotton is example of how these GMO seeds are affecting farmers.The first part of the paper will deal with the theoretical aspect of politics of knowledge and science. How the science and technological innovations are projected as superior to the local and indigenous knowledge systems and how the impact of this knowledge structure are twofold in the field of seeds. Firstly, its impact on ecology because of deprivation of biodiversity and secondly its impact on agricultural economy.The second part of the paper will analyze the problems in the seed industry.
These problems includes the deprivation of seed diversity, the seed monopolies and corporate of seeds, IPR regime and farmer problem, impact of IPR on women as, women in most of the parts in country are traditionally conserving the seeds, impact of seed diversity erosion on food security. Further this section will analyze the government’s policy for conserving seeds diversity. This section will also include a case study of ‘rice’ sector in India and how once home to 100,000 rice varieties, the high-yield, less hardy hybrids have taken over its place. The final section of the of the paper will include the alternative to the existing structure and how the seeds are handled in the regime of IPR. The alternative will include biodiversity in place of biopiracy, community ownership and exchange of seeds in place of industries.
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