Sunday, August 14, 2011

Seeding sovereignty

Wiktionary defines sovereignty as the state of making laws and controlling resources without the coercion of other nations. In other words, we are sovereign only if we use collective resources to our own advantage. So, here’s a question. Does food qualify as a resource?

Yes? What about traditional knowledge? Yes? Do I hear you say that it is imperative that India holds on to her strengths in the food department?
But food comes from seeds. And seeds… Well, there’s a seed floating around nowadays that is not ours. We don’t own the knowledge and fertility that’s embedded in that seed. Foreign corporations do and they won’t allow us to save a fraction of the crop for using as seed next year. In fact, corporations like Monsanto sell expensive seed with built-in ‘terminator’ technologies, so that the crop is useless for re-sowing. Does that spell ‘justice, liberty, equality’ to you?
So farmer groups, under the banner of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), decided to celebrate Quit India Day (August 9) by asking Monsanto to get out. They want the state to stop GM crop trials and work out a system of seed self-reliance instead. They’re denouncing the ‘bio-piracy’ that blocks access to seeds through ‘collaborative research’.
You may or may not agree with the ‘Quit India’ call, but remember that seeds can be contaminated, or destroyed. Crops can fail again, and again. Famines can happen. Terrible famines have happened during colonial times and one reason was that farmers couldn’t choose what to grow.

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