Pro Seed Now Biodiversity and Organic Food Festival

The Biodiversity and Organic Food Festival – jointly organised by Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI), Sahaja Samrudha, Save Our Rice (SOR), Vividhara, and Development and Justice Initiative (DAJI), in collaboration with Aurobindo Society at its New Delhi campus – was a grand success! Several hundred farmers, seed savers, farmer-breeders, grassroots organisations and activists from 15 states across India showcased, for public awareness, over 2,500 seed varieties of cereals (rice, wheat, millets), pulses, vegetables, tubers, medicinal plants and uncultivated/forest foods.

It was a riot of colours and an enthralling display in a welcoming village haat ambience. Open blue skies, green surroundings and small shaded shamianas, propped up with bamboo, and furnished with just chatais, charpoys and string for displays. Perfect for the occasion and the convivial gathering it attracted! The Festival was a heart-warming confluence of synergies to exhibit a sampling of India’s enormous diversity of foods adapted to diverse conditions. Unfortunately, this mind-boggling variety of crops – vital for ensuring India’s food and nutritional security, sovereignty, and sustainable, self-reliant livelihoods for millions – is severely threatened. Determined collective efforts are urgently needed to conserve, regenerate and widely share such diversity, combined with care for its bio-cultural habitats. In stark contrast to the several thousand varieties of foods on display at the festival, a very few varieties of barely 8 crops/foods constitute over 75% of the people’s diet in most industrialised (impoverished) western nations.

Preceding the Festival was a two-day National Seed Savers meeting on March 6-7 – for joint consultation and collaboration – attended by about 80 people representing different organisations and initiatives from all over India. Present were a galaxy of outstanding seed savers, breeders, and organic farmers. Setting the tone for the consultation, Krishna Prasad, Seed Convenor of ASHA, urged farmers to engage actively in plant breeding and the exchange of native seed varieties with regional partners, keeping careful track of all material and knowledge shared to guard against bio-piracy by MNCs. He emphasised too the need to strengthen market linkages for wider use of our traditional foods and seed varieties, while steadfastly resisting the introduction of ruinous GM crops.

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