March 22, 2006, Umsning, Meghalaya, Press Release

The farmers’ rights to use their own variety of seeds and their own farming methods have been discussed in a meeting organised by Consumer Unity & Trust Society, Calcutta Resource Centre (CUTS-CRC) and Rural Resource & Training Centre (RRTC, a wing of Bossco Reach Out) at RRTC, Umran on March 22, 2006. Many farmers have participated in that meeting and expressed their concern over the Access & Benefit Sharing and Prior Informed Consent issues on the traditional knowledge.

Farmers were of the opinion that the seeds and the fertilizers offered by the government are of very low quality and can be useful after one year. They said that the traditional varieties of seeds nurtured by them over centuries are far superior to the seeds provided by the government. It was felt that the traditional knowledge has to be documented properly so that it can be useful over the generations. The NGOs working in these issues must take the responsibility of documentation of the traditional knowledge.

In the context, the recent Seed Bill, 2004 has been discussed. The farmers opined that the anti farmers’ bill, where farmers cannot use their own varieties of seeds, must be resisted. It was decided that the bill will be translated into the local languages and the main implications of the bill will be disseminated to the farmers’ group as soon as possible, so that our government can be resisted from taking any anti farmers’ policy.

The meeting, which was organised under the programme Farmers’ Rights to Livelihood, initiated by South Asian Watch on Trade Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), based at Kathmandu, was successful in bringing all the farmers’ group of the region on a common platform. It was expected that this would facilitate the process of advocacy for the cause of the farmers to the government in future.