India may have only 2.4 per cent of the world's area, but it has over eight per cent of the world's biodiversity, the third mega diversity region. The National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources has collected 302348 accessions of crops of which 18, 862 are vegetable accessions only. In India there are 51,000 plant species and about 30% has been accessed so far. The rest 70% lies untapped.
Did you know that an estimated diversity of around 4,000 cultivars of bean and 7500 kinds of tomatoes exists? Sadly, we have access to only a few commercially grown vegetables so uniform, laced with pesticides, waxed with chemicals deceptively attractive. The loss of biological diversity, particularly in the "gene rich" countries of the Third World, undermines the very sense of sustainable agriculture, as it destroys choices for the future and robs people of a key resource base for survival.(1)
"Seed" the most unassuming potent gift of life that which is most sacred to me is under siege and assault. I have been consistently alerting and raising alarms about safeguarding traditional organic seeds. SEEDS THE KERNEL OF LIFE ITSELF, THE SOURCE OF OUR FOOD, WHEN CONTAMINATED, HAVE AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON OUR HEALTH AND THE HEALTH OF OUR PLANET. Resulting in a very sick society. Exactly, the state of affairs in our country! Devastating as it may sound but this is the hard core truth.
Seeds cannot be imprisoned by the yoke of legality to be patented by laboratories, to be modified or sterilized by transnationals or for that matter the property of a handful of corporations. Biodiversity is a planetary heritage, which is the fruit of the work of hundreds of generations of rural farmers. This heritage does not belong to anyone in particular: it is a legacy for the future. Seed embodies diversity. Seed embodies the freedom to stay alive. You will agree that “without seed integrity, food integrity is impossible”. And any hybridisation, or genetic manipulation of seeds will destroy our heritage of seed integrity that evolved through centuries...
“Seeds belong to no one it is a gift of life to life itself”. Going back to our Rig Vedas, women stood guard of a standing field, these guardians of the seeds were called Kalamgopis. Woman like the seed is the symbol of fertility. Harmony and balance prevailed in society due to sustainability. Soil is like an expectant mother into which all nourishing nutrients are carefully administered. Seeds are her children to be nurtured with care and devotion.
Unfortunately, the objective of the greed driven seed corporations have eroded this only to make farmers dependent on them. Each year farmers have to purchase sterile seeds along with their corresponding chemical fertilizers and pesticides at obnoxious costs. Mounting farmers’ debts and deaths is primarily the outcome of farmers having to adopt these intensive corrosive methods.
It may sound shocking but after 60 odd years of Independence, the monthly average income of a farmer remains a paltry sum of Rs 2200, far below the poverty line ( Source- NSSO). Yet, he is expected to purchase industry driven manipulated seeds, not replicable and that too at unaffordable costs. A chaprasi (clerk) in a government office is far better off than a farmer. He earns a sizable amount of Rs 10,000 with perks like medical, bonus, leave benefits, thanks to the sixth pay commission to quote Devinder Sharma. But the backbone of our economy - "the farmer who feeds this nation" is not considered worthy of any State benefit but expected to live off credits. No wonder the balance and harmony that once prevailed is at the brink of disaster.
Agriculture is no longer sustainable. With a faulty seed bill craftily designed to fill industry coffers, farmers are left with little choice but to walk away from their fields. Neither food security measures nor the overall health of the nation is of any consequence to policy makers. Who is to suffer apart from the ones producing it, consumers, of course!!!
Just recall... not so long ago, each day was an occasion to celebrate all built around nature. Festivals like shankranti, baisaki and more served aromatic produce healthily grown with home-made nutritional recipes. Tradition and grandeur followed by conforming to our wise ancestral heritage. Which is why chronic diseases were far and few in number! Primarily, because soil and traditional seeds were nurtured with so much care and devotion. Both the soil and seeds once rich in minerals and micro nutrients have fast disappeared, thanks to the dictats of the green revolution. The control of food chain now resting with a handful of seed giants and MNC's.
The result being each day is tagged with a disease like the World Cancer day, World Hypertension day, World Diabetic day, World Heart day, World BP day to name a few. Many more diseases unheard off are being unveiled with gusto by medical experts further encashed by the pharmaceutical industry. Masses of monies are spent on medical research to provide remedies/cures through advertising drugs supposedly to combat pain and suffering. The ground reality is that most drugs provide short term relief which in turn reduces immunities. It suppresses the disease only to accelerate the cause making it chronic because the food you eat is not giving you the required nutrition. By then, you are drugged for life. When the soil and seed is infected, the food is devoid of nutrition, worse still toxic, no worth in gold can then save you.
At gatherings, the medications that provide relief against minor and major ailments is the topic of discussion. Every second house i peer into has a cancer, diabetic patient. To a headache, cold or fever popping medicines like never before is the norm and doctor's verdict the ultimatum ( with no offense to genuine medical experts). Patience is no longer a virtue. It is appalling to witness the ease with which human beings surrender their bodies and make them readily available for trails as experimental guinea pigs. You choose to do this for you no longer have faith in yourself, nor the time to connect with your source, nor exercise any will to control your senses. As long as you sit quiet and pretty tight with no time to question the source of your food, prepare yourself to suffer a new outbreak of diseases.
But not all is lost. If Consumers and farmers are to take charge of their food chain, they have to be re-skilled to become farmer researchers, seed savers and breeders. In order to do so, we introduce an innovative approach for each one of us to become a seed guardian. Adopt a seed. Become a God parent to a seed variety. Now how interesting is this? We can sow seeds of consciousness amidst each other. An enterprising home gardener saves a seed in her balcony or kitchen garden and carries this message in her colony inviting all other friends to join in. Conserve a tomato variety ensuring its varietal purity, then deposit the seeds in central pool created. Thereon you create a network of seed growers from home gardeners to farmers. For instance if there are 20 traditional brinjals in your region each one can conserve a particular variety and make them available to many more…..that way you are responsible in securing food and conserving biodiversity.
Open-pollinated seeds are genetically diverse treasures that have been passed on from generation to generation. When you buy and plant open-pollinated seeds you are helping to protect your health, environment and conserve this valuable resource for the future. Join us in our endeavor.
If you are interested in taking charge of your food. “From Soil to Seed” workshops are conducted regularly. Write to us at - firstname.lastname@example.org