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Seed sovereignty: Resisting corporate monopolies on seed and creating

(Monday, Jan. 6, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- The following press release is by Upasana Mehta with Diverse Women for Diversity in India.

Seed, the source of life, has become a source of death in the hands of global seed and biotechnology corporations. Thousands of farmers have committed suicide since MNCs entered the seed sector through globalisation. Seed monopolies have transformed agriculture into a negative economy with costs of production skyrocketing while farmers' incomes are plummeting to below survival levels. Farmers who have had to sell their kidneys or whose family members committed suicide gave testimonies of how seed/chemical monopolies are squeezing profits by extracting the very life of poor peasants.

Through the WTO TRIPs Agreement, corporations have forced changes in patent laws creating patents on seed and life forms. Corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta are pirating centuries of farmers' innovation and patenting rice, cotton, mustard, corn, soya and practically all other food crops. ConAgra, an agribusiness corporation has even patented the Indian atta.

Movements from across Asia who have been fighting TRIPs and biopiracy and defending farmers' rights gathered at a Seminar on Seed Sovereignty organised by Navdanya at Asian Social Forum on 5th January.

The groups joined movements from Chattisgarh such as Rupantar represented by Ilina Sen, to celebrate the victory of forcing Syngenta to withdraw from its attempt to pirate India rice diversity. They committed themselves to stop patents on rice and conserve the rice diversity and knowledge of the people of Asia.

Scientists and farmers, like Dr. Jalapathi Rao of Warrangal and Ram Kalaspurkar of Yavatmal, Maharashtra, gave reports on the failed promise of genetically engineered seeds, especially Bt cotton. They also expressed anxiety about the hijack of government agencies and research institutions by the seed and biotech corporations. Regulatory agencies are being manipulated, courts are being influenced, and even scientific data is being fabricated to create markets for the seed MNCs.

People's movements have been resisting this life threatening monopoly by refusing to cooperate with patent laws that allow patents on seed and technologies designed to trap and control farmers in a dependency treadmill. Navdanya has also shown the way for resistance by creating alternatives through community seed banks, biodiversity conservation, strengthening exchange networks to save and share seed, and defending community rights. Hundreds of local community initiatives have now flowered to keep seed in farmers' hands.

The Bija Satyagraha Movement for n on cooperation with seed monopolies which was initiated by Navdanya on 9th August 1999 with a message to Seed MNCs to Quit India, continues to spread through the communities of Asia. The Bija Swaraj Movement for Seed Sovereignty is showing that another agriculture for Asia is possible, in which seed is free, farmers are free, knowledge is free and life can evolve in fullness and freedom.

Upasana Mehta
Diverse Women for Diversity
A- 60, Hauz Khas, New Delhi- 16
Tel: 91 11 6561868, 6853772
Fax: 91 11 6562093