South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), Kathmandu and Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI), Norway jointly organized a regional conference on Suitable Seeds for Food Security to disseminate the findings of the study “Suitable seeds for food security in fragile states” and initiate a discussion around seed security and climate change. The discussions held at the two-day conference shed light on the roles of policy, legal and institutional frameworks with respect to access to suitable seeds in South Asia.
Dr. Paras Kharel, Executive Director, SAWTEE, Nepal, highlighted the activities of SAWTEE over two decades in the area of research and advocacy on farmers’ rights and food security.
Dr. Kristin Rosendal Senior Researcher, Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI), Norway, highlighted in her presentation that food security depends largely on access to a broad variety of suitable seeds since good quality food plants that are adapted to changing climate is necessary to fight climate change. She highlighted that domestic diversity and access to seeds are affected by international goals given that the top three corporations in the world control half the global seed market value. Such facets intensely undermine the trust in the global circulation of seeds, she added.
Given the changing climatic conditions, the importance of food security has grown multi-fold, said Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel, Chairman of the Nepal Institute for Urban and Regional Studies (NIURS), and Former Vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission, adding that seed diversity is integral to food security.
Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Chairperson of SAWTEE, said that the overlapping global food and climate crises have left many people with multiple vulnerabilities, especially in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Hence, when formulating seed policy to ensure food security, the ground reality of LDCs should be taken into account, by enhancing participatory and gender-sensitive approaches and improving the linkages of seed security, agri-productivity, and nutrition within households.
Dr. Vibha Dhawan, Director General, The Energy and Recourses Institute (TERI), India, shared that intellectual property rights (IPR) protection of genetic materials for plant breeders is needed for us to effectively stimulate innovation and secure returns on investments in genetic improvement.
Christian Prip, Senior Research Fellow, FNI, emphasized that there have been conflicting interests with regard to the industrialization of agriculture with major economic interests clashing with the objective of protecting the diversity of plant genetic resources to ensure long-term food security and farmers' rights.
The two-day conference saw discussions on topics such as ‘Fostering Regional Co-operation for seed security: South Asian Perspective’, ‘Changes in EU Seed Regulations – Global Trends’, ‘Financing Climate Change Adaptation and ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Agri input chain’. The event saw the participation of researchers, academics, policymakers, representatives of farmers’ bodies, consumer rights activists, organizations working on climate change adaptation, and media, among others. There were participants from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Norway.