(Pic / MSSRF: A woman receiving seeds from an agri service centre in Tamil Nadu, South India)
Chennai, May 25, 2016: A recent news item mentions that Bayer’s 62 billion dollars all cash offer to buy Monsanto has implications for seed research and development in our and other developing countries. Obviously big commercial companies are trying to increase the scale of their operation to bring down transaction costs and also concentrate on high value seeds like hybrids. There is therefore concern about the impact of the emergence of such huge multinational seed companies on the small scale agriculture of India. In this context, I wish to recall that the entire green revolution was supported and sustained by the small scale seed sector. Different methods like the Jaunti Seed Village, Farmers’ Seed Associations and capacity building of rural and tribal women in seed technology helped to provide the seeds needed in the green revolution era. Even today, all our varietal seed needs can be taken care of by farmers. It is only in the case of hybrids that special knowledge is needed to select the inbred lines and hybrid seeds. This can be done by young farmers trained in the science and art of seed technology. In fact such decentralised seed production will have another advantage that they can help to achieve goal 2 (“End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”) of the sustainable development goals. Genetic homogeneity enlarges genetic vulnerability to pests and diseases. Hence our own response to situations like the emergence of huge seed combines should be to promote decentralised production based on well tested techniques like seed villages.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.