1. Agriculture World

The Imphal Seed Declaration

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan

National Indigenous Seed Festival 2019 was held at the Central Agricultural University (CAU) campus, Imphal. Seed Savers and farmer groups from several states participated in the three-day event. The festival that continued till 14 October created awareness on conserving the indigenous seed ecosystem, reviving of indigenous seeds, networking with farmers, protecting traditional wisdom, ensuring agro-biodiversity and agro-ecology conservation activities. The festival helped in creating a platform for farmers to come together and exchange indigenous knowledge, their ideas and culture, exchange of seeds and many more. A seminar on seeds and related issues, an exhibition of Indigenous seeds and other organic-based medicinal and aromatic plants, stalls for agricultural and allied products along with field visits were organised. All Manipur trained Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Promoters Consortium had organised the three-day festival with technical support from the Bharat Beej Swaraj Manch (India Seed Sovereignty Alliance).

The seed is the first link in the food chain. It is a sacred code of evolution, an 
embodiment of life and memory, a latent world waiting to unfold. The seed gives itself to earth – warm soil, air and moisture – and comes alive. Drawing energy from the sun, it grows and multiplies manifold. Each seed and plant is unique. 

Like the earth and the sky, the immense biodiversity of seeds is our collective heritage. Gifted by nature, and the cumulative innovations, adaptations and selections of many generations of farming communities, these seeds belong to all. They are our most vital wealth, essential for survival. They cannot be seen as mere commodities, to be bought and sold at will. 
Allowing any variety of seed or plant to become a proprietary resource is a violation of natural justice, and a great suicidal blunder of modern economic civilization. 

Today, the danger to our priceless collective heritage of agro-biodiversity – from proprietary commercial hybrid seeds and GM (genetically modified) crops – is graver than ever. The GM crops threaten severe contamination of our local crop varieties through cross-pollination, as seen in the case of corn (maize) in Mexico. The aggressive marketing Hybrids and GM crops also drives local varieties out of circulation, as witnessed by the near total erosion of traditional cotton varieties in India. 

The National Seed Festival adopted a seed declaration and called it Imphal Declaration. Its Details are: 

1) We assert the farming communities’ and indigenous peoples’ sovereign rights 
over their collective bio-cultural heritage, including the right to freely plant, use, 
reproduce, select, improve, adapt, save, share, exchange or sell seeds, without 
restriction or hindrance, as they have done for past millennia. 

2) We reject the validity of any private or corporate proprietary claim of ownership 
over any variety of seed, crop, plant or life form, and particularly any variety rooted in 
our natural heritage, cultural history and identity. 

3) We demand a ban on GM seeds and species, and strict enforcement of corporate liability for any contamination of seeds/plants, and any damage to the health of farmers, consumers, animals, croplands and eco-systems from the use/release of GM seeds and species. 

4) We urge our government to partner with our farmers, gardeners and civil society 
organizations in collaboration with academic institutions and Biodiversity 
Boards systematically and transparently recording and documenting in a freely accessible database our genetic wealth, particularly the diversity of our crops and crop varieties, originating in or found in various regions and cultures of India. 

5) We demand that our government facilitate and simplify farmers’ and cultivators’ access to our heritage seed varieties from national and international germplasm collections, and support their decentralized conservation in the croplands and regions of origin. 

6) We assert our unconditional right to pass on our collective bio-cultural heritage and the health of our croplands and eco-systems to future generations. 

7) We demand that our government fulfill its responsibility of safeguarding and 
regenerating our collective bio-cultural heritage and the health of our croplands and eco-systems. 

8) We call upon our government to pro-actively promote and support bio-diverse and holistic ecological agriculture to meet our basic, priority needs in a sustainable manner. 

9) We call upon Northeastern state Governments to promote Markets run by women leadership similar to Ima Bazar, Imphal. So that Indigenous and local produce gets larger attention and consumer access 

10) We call upon Governments to promote Barter markets between Hill communities 
and Plains people and between different communities and ethnicities by facilitating 
infrastructure and transport subsidies for the effective functioning of such markets. 

11) We request Governments to plan programs to support communities and their organization to create community seed banks especially for ones lead by women. 

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