Press Release: People’s Biodiversity Festival: ‘Unity for Diversity’

Oct 13 to 16, 11 am to 7.30 pm, Exhibition Grounds, Nampalli

The People’s Biodiversity Festival, ‘Unity for Diversity’, is a collaborative endeavor of a large number of groups, including farmers’ groups, NGOs and people’s movements from all over India. It is a festive and defiant celebration of our rich biodiversity of crops, flora, fauna; and our vibrant bio-cultural heritage. Open to all, the Festival is radically different from the CBD-COP, and has already aroused expectant excitement.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was born two decades ago as a promising international treaty, aimed at the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; and the fair and equitable sharing of its benefits. But the actual achievements have largely been abject.

Today, the CBD is gravely compromised, and dominated by business and industrial lobbies. It has already bent backwards to accommodate their interests, at the cost of the basic needs of people. By yielding to Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) on life forms and plant varieties, it has allowed the carving of private slices of the ‘genetic pie’, undermining sustainability and equity. The ‘access’ to our germplasm, and the ‘benefits’ accruing from it, are largely cornered by MNCs.

Recently, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research offered MNCs 400,000 varieties of germplasm, including drought-tolerant rice, terminal-heat tolerant wheat & salinity-tolerant crop varieties, naturally adapted to different geographies. The ‘Access and Benefit Sharing’ (ABS) framework of CBD provides a cover for such a ‘gene and knowledge bazaar’. Free sharing between communities has declined.

The agri-business MNCs promote unsustainable monocultures of Genetically Modified (GM) crops and commercial hybrids – grown with high inputs of increasingly expensive and scarce fossil energy, chemicals and water – leaving a trail of toxicity & greenhouse gases. Instead, we need bio-diverse, ecological farming with locally adapted, open-pollinated seeds, for sustainable and wholesome yields.

In stark contrast to the CBD – and the increasing commodification of our ‘genetic resources’ and knowledge – the People’s Biodiversity Festival presents people’s voices in united resolve to protect our immense natural wealth and rich bio-cultural heritage, free from the ravages of powerful economic interests and monopolistic Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).  It asserts the people’s inviolable right and fundamental obligation to save and regenerate our collective commons for future generations, respecting nature.

The People’s Biodiversity Festival thus offers a holistic people’s perspective on issues related to biodiversity. It hopes to reach out to citizens, farmers, youth, media, opinion and policy makers, international delegates to the CBD-COP, and people at large – seeking suitable policy correction and collective initiatives at all levels.

About 60 stalls by different groups will display several thousand varieties of crop seeds, along with posters, photographs, literature, etc. A number of indigenous breeds of livestock/fauna will be exhibited. Books, ecological products, traditional crafts, and indigenous/organic foods will be available on sale. A ‘Rice Mela’ selling several dozen varieties from different parts of India will be part of the Festival. There will also be numerous seminars, workshops, film screenings, and evening cultural presentations.

The programme of the main Festival events is as follows:

Saturday, 13th October:

Morning, 11.30 am to 1.30 pm – Inauguration & Opening Plenary of the Festival.

Afternoon, 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm – Seminar on ‘Biodiversity and Ecological Agriculture’

Evening, 6 pm to 7.30 – Cultural Program.

Sunday, 14th October:

Morning, 10 am to 1 pm – Seminar: ‘Open source seeds and Seed-Savers’ Network’

Afternoon, 2 pm to 5 pm – Seminar on IPRs, Bio-piracy and Indian legal framework’

Evening, 6 pm to 7.30 – Cultural Programme.

Monday, 15th October:

Morning, 10 am to 1 pm – Seminar on: Adivasis and Biodiversity’

Afternoon, 2 pm to 5 pm – Seminar on: ‘Climate Change and Biodiversity’

Evening, 6 pm to 7.30 pm – Cultural Programme

16th October 2012

Morning, 10 am to 1 pm – Seminar on ‘Land, Livelihoods and Biodiversity’

Afternoon, 2 pm to 5 pm — Final Resolutions to be adopted

6 to 7.30 – Closing Ceremony.

(About 2 or 3 more parallel sessions may be added to the above programme, but are not yet confirmed.)

 

We heartily invite all members of the press and audio-visual media to visit the People’s Biodiversity Festival. Please meet and interact with the participants; and report on what you see. We promise you will not be disappointed!

An advance report on the forthcoming Festival – for the benefit of the interested public – would also be greatly appreciated.

For more details, please contact any of the following:

1)    Dr Uma Shankari: 09989798493

2)    Narasimha Reddy: 09010205742

3)    Bharat Mansata: 09967371183

 

4)    Dr Ramanjaneyulu: 09000699702

ByNarasimha Reddy Donthi,

(On behalf of the ‘People’s Biodiversity Festival)

Note: The ‘Rice Mela’ will start at the same venue from Oct 12; the rest of the Peole’s Biodiversity Festival will begin on the 13th Oct, though participants will start setting up their stalls by the 12th afternoon.

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