International Day for Biological Diversity – 22 May

Glory of Allapalli

“Glory of Allapalli”, 5 hours drive from Nagpur, Notified Biodiversity Heritage Site

The UN has earmarked May 22 as International Day for Biological Diversity. For the uninitiated Biological Diversity refers to variability of living organisms of all kinds (terrestrial, marine, aquatic) in a given ecosystem. It includes all variety of life forms on earth. The term was first coined by Walter and Rosen in 1985 and encompasses different species living in a given area. Biodiversity is the foundation for a vast habitat and is critical for well-being of human beings.

 The International Day of Biodiversity was set aside to increase understanding and awareness about biodiversity issues. This year’s theme for the day is Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism. In fact the UN has declared 2011-20 as UN’s Decade on Biodiversity with the aim to serve the world in supporting and promoting the goal of significant reduction in biodiversity loss.

Biodiversity is the key that links human survival to their ecosystem, both being inextricably linked. Maintaining the natural diversity of both land and water is a complex phenomenon that has witnessed dramatic changes due to human actions. It is critical to save our unique biospheres comprising of innumerable plants, animals, and microbes.

Clearly, biodiversity affects our environmental systems supporting millions of species that survive together. Gradual loss of species is already starting to affect critical components on which we depend for our lives – breathable air, potable water, fertile soils, bountiful oceans and soil productivity. Large-scale human influences on biomes are tremendously adversely impacting us all.

Decidedly if our actions have influenced nature then we need to reinvent ourselves to remedy the situation. Already the planet has lost 52 per cent of its biodiversity! Seventy percent of world’s species are to be found in just 12 countries! And one of them is India. The International Day for Biological Diversity therefore serves as a global reminder to take action to avoid situations like unsustainable agriculture, desertification, land degradation, drought, impotable water, adverse health impact, unsustainable transport, climate change, food insecurity and disasters that are all fall-outs of loss of biodiversity.

India is among the first countries to be the signatory to the Biodiversity Convention. In 2003 the National Biodiversity Authority was established to implement India’s Biological Diversity Act (2002). NBA works on issues of conservation, sustainable use of biological resources and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources. State Biodiversity Boards follow guidelines relating to conservation of biodiversity. Similarly local level Biodiversity Management Committees take care in promoting conservation and documentation of biological diversity. This includes preservation of habitats, conservation of land races, food varieties and cultivars, domesticated stocks and breeds of animals, microorganisms and chronicling of knowledge relating to biological diversity.

In our vicinity, May 24 would be seeing Hazra Falls, a picturesque tourist spot in Salekasa forest range of Gondia Division, about 190 kms from Nagpur to be declared as a Biodiversity Heritage Site. Sometime back “Glory of Allapalli”, five hours drive from Nagpur, in Gadchiroli District was notified as a Biodiversity Heritage Site. It is Maharashtra’s first biodiversity heritage site. Such status strengthens biodiversity conservation in traditionally managed areas and control rapid loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity Heritage Sites are a matter of pride and inspire others to join in with conservation efforts.

Hazra Falls

Hazra Falls – Tourist Spot in Salekasa Forest Range of Gondia Division – 190 kms from Nagpur.

Looking Beyond Seed Wars…

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Conserving indigenous seeds

Seed. Source of life. Embodiment of biological diversity. Link between evolution. Common property of tilling communities. Seed sovereignty is the base for food sovereignty. Seed freedom is the foundation for food freedom. This is why one needs to save our seeds. Especially, from being stolen, appropriated and sold back proprietorially by money-mongering corporations. The great seed robbery has to stop!

Several farsighted ngo’s and individuals in India are joining hands against genetically engineered seeds and crops. GMOs have unleashed seed wars and now the world is awash with me-know-best knowledge wars! Without getting into the veracity of claims about who is right and who is wrong, one thing is for certain – genetic engineering is simply to get patents on seeds to be collected as royalties!

And the only traits these corporations have introduced into plants through genetic engineering are toxic traits of Bt toxin and herbicide resistance. Other than being noxious, these traits have not reduced chemical use. Studies in Vidarbha show a 13 fold increase in pesticide use since Bt cotton was introduced. The data on increased chemical use shows that the claim that Bt toxin crops will reduce pesticide use and herbicide resistant crops will reduce herbicide use, is false.

Corporations assert intellectual property rights on seeds, biodiversity and life forms! But seeds are not an invention. They embody biological evolution and centuries of breeding by farmers. How can a corporation claim patent on traits that nature and farmers evolved. But now they pirate on traits like aromas, low-gluten, salt-tolerant, and even climate resilient crops! This is neither innovation nor invention. It is bio-piracy all in the name of greed and business as usual.

The future of the seed, the future of food and the future of farmers lies in conservation of biodiversity of our seeds. It is a great big myth being propagated that we need to hand over our seed supply to corporations to increase food production. The truth is farmers’ varieties when used in agro-ecological systems have the potential to double food production in 10 years as suggested by UNO.

Mure Memorial Grounds are to be the venue for the seed festival in Nagpur on April 7-8-9, 2017. HERD Foundation as an integral part of the agenda for Beejotsav Festival celebrates organic farming. More people need to join in to check the exhibition-cum-sale of diverse indigenous seeds, seed diversity, organic farm produce, organic dishes, organic clothing, and books – all put in place to better understand the need for healthy eating and sustainable agriculture. Let us all celebrate indigenous seeds. Celebrate seed diversity! Celebrate organic seeds! Celebrate Organic Food!

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A growing organic market

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