According to popular perception, organic farming is a system where crops are grown without chemical fertilizers. What many don’t know is that if a seed is genetically modified or even a hybrid variety, then the produce cannot be claimed organic. At an ongoing conference to highlight the importance of saving traditional seed varieties in organic farming, farmers and non-profits gathered to share their experiences on conserving indigenous seeds.
The conference, the 19th IFOAM Organic World Congress brought together more than 55 groups from across India, which work to save indigenous seeds. Farmers from over 15 states have displayed their seed collection till November 11. Organised by IFOAM Organics International, the conference aims to bring policy level changes to encourage community-based in-situ conservation of traditional seeds.
Leneesh K, programme officer, Thanal, a Kerala-based agro ecology centre says that organic farming farmers are getting better profits by cultivating indigenous seeds than from conventional agriculture. While the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for normal paddy is Rs 22 /kg, the MSP for indigenous variety is Rs 28/kg, says Leneesh. Aromatic and medicinal value crops fare better with Rs 40-42/kg and Rs 50/kg as MSP, respectively.
As part of the Save Our Rice campaign, a people’s movement to revive rice culture and create sustainable rice ecosystems, Rice Diversity Blocks (RDB) have been introduced in these regions to conserve indigenous varieties. While the first such block was introduced in 2010 over 1.23 acre owned by Thanal, today there are 13 RDBs all over Kerala.
Before the conference began, the preconference, held on 8th November at the Constitutional Club, New Delhi, called for measures, including strong seed regulation, proper implementation and a ban on GM and hybrid varieties. Farmers, seed savers and non-profits also called for encouraging community participatory research and licensing of seeds to ensure the produce is organic.
Bharat Beej Swaraj Manch or India seed Sovereignty Alliance, a network of seed savers in India in a statement asked to “shun and resist the use of Genetically Modified products, to strive to influence public policies to keep them out of our food, farms and environment.”