“Our rights, our needs, our identities have been defined on behalf of us, but not by us”, Tanmay Joshi, a young farmer from India
At the recently concluded Global Consultation on Farmers’ Rights in Bali, organsied by the Ministry of Indonesia with the support of the Ministry of Norway and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), Tanmay Joshi, a young farmer from the state of Maharshtra in India spoke passionately. Here is the full text of this speech.
I am Tanmay from India. I’m here as a representative of La Via Campesina and the Indian Farmers’ Movements.
Our recommendations for the realisation of farmers’ rights are:
1. Farmers’ rights to seeds cannot be subset of IPR laws. There has to be a paradigm shift in legislations that deal with farmers’ rights to seeds and genetic resources for food and agriculture. It has to first ensure our right to use, reuse, save, select, share, exchange and sell the seeds grown in our farms without any legal or biological restrictions.
2. We are not large producers associated with the agro-export model or the agro-industrial food. We, the peasants, are the small farmers, women, indigenous people, landless farmers, landless agricultural labourers, fisherfolk, pastoralists and our respective and collective organisations. Someone else cannot define our rights for us, we define it for ourselves. Therefore we have to be involved in every step of the decision making process on all the matters relating to us at local, regional, national and international level. & For our effective participation in this process, access to information relating to our matters, enough time given to discuss the matters adequately in our communities and format of our involvement to be physical, not just virtual, is of utmost importance.
3. Unless and until we are guaranteed safety from biopiracy, we cannot keep giving our seeds to the treaty or any of the seed banks that collaborate with the Multi Lateral System of the Treaty. To that effect, an effective mechanism to stop biopiracy should be worked upon.
4. Governments must fulfill their roles and promote, invest financial resources and develop other public policies to strengthen peasant agriculture, so that we can produce food without pesticide residues or crops causing environmental and socio-cultural impacts. & which will help us in effectively protecting the genetic heritage, traditional knowledge and farming practices.
What is our rationale behind these recommendations? Why do farmers’ rights matter to us? Of course, it matters because we are the ones who feed the world with diverse and nutritious food and without us or our seed systems, future of humanity will collapse. But it also matters because we face a great urgency for our existence itself.
You see, in my country, within the four days of this consultation, over 8000 farmers would have quit farming. Over 200 farmers would’ve committed suicide. Right here in Indonesia where the consultation is taking place, peasants in East Java have been criminalised and jailed for using their own seeds.
Under these extreme circumstances, what are these farmers’ rights that the governments are talking about? What are these farmers’ rights the treaty is talking about? How can our rights be reduced to rights to register seeds when we were never even consulted for it? How can our rights be a subtext of an IPR law when we come from a tradition in which seeds are a collective heritage of people in the service of humanity on which no one can claim to have proprietary rights? This is because our rights, our needs, our identities have been defined on behalf of us, but not by us.
We are not large producers associated with the agro-export model or the agro-industrial food, but small farmers, women, indigenous people, landless farmers, landless agricultural labourers, fisherfolk and pastoralists. We, of course, are entitled to our individual human rights, but we are not just individuals. Our’s is a culture that has evolved out of collectivism. Therefore, it is our collective rights as well that need recognition.
The very seeds which have ensured not just food security but also sovereignty of our local communities, are now being contaminated by:
i. Genetically Modified Seeds & industrial biotechnologies.
ii. Patents and other restrictive laws.
iii. False information and propaganda.
Therefore, we say this here to our governments throughout the world, that the time to act on realisation of our rights is now. & we are quickly running out of it.
To watch the video broadcast click here. To watch other interventions made by the delegation of La Via Campesina and The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty click here