Several participants at the meeting spoke strongly against genetically modified seeds and urged the farming community to boycott them.
For foreign delegates who left the HICC campus for more ‘real’ experience, the People’s Biodiversity Festival at Nampally Exhibition ground seems to have fulfilled their purpose of visit to Hyderabad.
“What we are experiencing is the reality, here”, said one of the foreign delegates from UK inspecting varieties of food grains and aromatic plants. Trying to know more about the indigenous varieties, they recall how the agriculture was affected in thier countries, due to the modernisation.
The festival was inaugurated symbolically, using ‘navdhanya’, placing stalks of a diverse variety of grains in a beautifully decorated vase, by Bhaskar Save, a 85-year-old organic farmer from South Gujarat.
He was joined by eminent activists representing different aspects of biodiversity. Bharat Mansata well-known writer from Kolkata, Vijay Jardhari, seed-saver from Beej Bachao Andolan, Uttarakhand, Uzramma, handloom and desi cotton activist from Malkha Fabrics, Roy David of National Adivasi Alliance, Uma Shankari, organic farmer from Chittoor, Sagari Ramdas, livestock expert from Anthra, Bhudevi, an adivasi lady from Visakhapatnam district, Ratnam from Green Climate campaigning to protect the East coast of Andhra Pradesh, and activists from Sompeta and Kakarapalli struggling to protect marshlands, and Jacob Nellithanam working on seed diversity in Chhattisgarh. Saraswati Kavula from NAPM moderated the program.
A Telugu book on understanding our food system, “Tindi-Tippalu” written by Dr.Uma Shankari was released on this occasion.
“What is happening at HICC is something between the various governments and as per their protocols. But we are the real protectors of biodiversity”, said Dr Uma Shankari. According to her, it was nothing but the combined efforts of people that could save some of the indigenous varieties of food grains, as most of these were lost, owing to the onset GM (genetically modified) seeds.
Vijay Jardhari, famous for his Chipko Movement and one of the founders of Beej Bachao Andolan, termed the GM seeds as ‘conspiracy seeds’, which made farmers suffer and affected billions. “When we tried these, the yield was double in first year, but decreased in the consecutive years. It’s like intoxicated person”, he explained.
The proponent of ‘Barah Anaaj’, he claimed that not a single farmer died who practiced this age old system of farming. According to him, the issues being discussed at biodiversity conference will not safeguard the biodiversity and far from focusing on reality.
More than a 1000 visitors to the festival by evening, with many Hyderabad residents as well as CBD participants from various states and countries, being thrilled by the public celebration of biodiversity.
In total there were 60 stalls by almost 65 organisations and networks, who are working on different natural products, from more than 15 States in India. It was a colourful festival with lot of hangings, posters, artifacts, designer hand-woven clothes, and rich nutritious food including organic millets, varieties of red rice and cuisine made from organically grown vegetables and grains.
The festival which will continue till October 16 will be witnessing more foreign delegates, apart from Indian agricultural activists most of whom are expected to arrive on the last day. Medha Patkar, of Narmada Bachao Andolan and several other activists will be making her presence felt on October 16.
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