The Sustainable Seed Innovation 2.0 Conference:
A Call to Policymakers and Stakeholders
'Traditional Knowledge meets Modern Science’ is a one-of-a-kind conference bringing together academic researchers, farmers, NGOs, policymakers, technology experts, consumers and all stakeholders for concrete, systematic and focused action to revive biodiversity and secure the livelihoods of small farmers across India.
According to the United Nations, over the last century an estimated 75% of crop genetic diversity has been lost, with farmers abandoning local varieties for genetically uniform, globally distributed ‘high-yielding’ ones. For anyone concerned to see farming in India become part of the solution to our ecological problems, the recent announcement by Nirmala Sitharaman in support of Zero Budget Natural Farming, a farming system based in large part on principles underlying Traditional Ecological Knowledge systems of India, is a most welcome step in the right direction.
But much more is needed. After decades of the promotion of ‘uniformity’ and homogeneity in seeds, soil and agricultural systems, what is required is a systematic and focused approach, building from the grassroots up to diversify agricultural systems and change mindsets and habitual practices, so that good intentions are converted into a working reality that enhances small-farmer incomes, socio-cultural diversity and environmental health.
The multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary Sustainable Seed Innovation Conference 2.0, scheduled for 30 July 2019 at the International Art of Living Center in Bangalore, will introduce the stories of several farmers engaged with sustainable seed innovations in India as illustrations of a three-pronged approach set out in a new Position Paper. Launching the first-of-its-kind public consultation effort, the SSI 2.0 research team has already started publishing the background and research underlying the Position Paper in easy-to-understand blog posts on the famous Indian intellectual property blog, Spicy IP. All stakeholders are invited to contribute to this effort by commenting on the blog posts or sending additional blog posts to the research team or the Spicy IP blog team.
The finalized Position Paper, compiling all major comments and expert inputs received via the public consultation, will be delivered to the Government of India during the Sustainable Seed Innovation (SSI) 2.0 conference. The Position Paper will also:
- explain the three-pronged approach, covering the revival of Traditional Ecological Knowledge systems (Prong 1), the updating of agricultural education to promote sustainability (Prong 2), and the use of new smart technologies to incentivize and monetize farmer-level innovation with indigenous seeds in an ecologically and socially sustainable manner (Prong 3)
- outline a blockchain-facilitated framework aimed at supporting the implementation of Prong 3 (and by extension the three-pronged approach as a whole)
- highlight key legal and ethical issues that need to be borne in mind while implementing the three prongs.
The SSI 2.0 conference will conclude a project funded by the UK Global Challenges Research fund, and led by Prof. Gregory Radick, Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds (Principal Investigator) and Dr Mrinalini Kochupillai (Co-Investigator), in collaboration with Rugmani Prabhakar and Dr Prabhakar Rao of the Art of Living (AoL) Foundation, and supported by Dr Natalie Kopytko, Julia Koeninger and Jasper Matthiesen. The project arises at the intersection of the research interests of Prof. Radick and Dr Kochupillai in the past and present intertwinings of plant breeding and intellectual property (IP), narrowly and broadly construed. The farmer stories researched and published by Dr Kopytko, the “beyond Mendel” genetics curriculum proposed by Prof. Radick, and the smart-technology solutions outlined by Dr Kochupillai (together with key legal and ethical issues) all show by example the value of thinking about the IP toolbox available to policymakers as comprising far more than patents and their surrogates.