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THE HYDERABAD STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY
Against Genetic Engineering, Intellectual Property Rights and For Diversity in Agriculture
4 December 2002
 

We, coming from different countries and diverse cultural and social backgrounds who gathered together at the Public Forum on Genetic Engineering, Agriculture and Farmers Rights, in Hyderabad, India - land of diversity, where traditional knowledge and farming systems have kept alive agriculture and thus preserved the life and livelihoods of those intrinsically linked to it - express our support to the farmers ad farming communities that continue to keep such systems alive despite the growing threats from genetic engineering and intellectual property regimes.

We share the vision endeavors for farmer-centred, farmer-led modes of agricultural research and production systems that rely on

  • control, access and availability of seeds of diverse traditional crops
  • responsive support from public research institutions, free from corporate agendas
  • full respect for farmers' rights, which absolutely prohibits the privatization and monopolization of biodiversity or traditional knowledge
  • farmers' active control over research, production, food processing and marketing systems
  • a major involvement of women
  • an active participation of the marginalized sectors and the poor
  • ecological integrity

South Asia has been amongst the cradles of agriculture and is famed for the success farmers have had dealing with soils, water and diverse environments. Rural communities here have engaged in myriad ways of developing and preserving agbiodiversity in close links with their different cultures.

The subcontinent however is becoming the major theatre for the GE Industry. As Europe firmly continues its resistance against GE foods, and the Latin American countries like Argentina and Mexico record a string of GE disasters, and while the African continent bravely refuses to be destroyed under the GE aid, the focus of the GE industry is sharpened o the Indian subcontinent.

Genetic engineering violates natural processes by transferring foreign strands of DNA from one organism to another, even across species barriers. The altered genes and the end product are then regarded by the new IPR-regime as inventions of human intervention and therefore intellectual property. We are strongly against patents or any other kind of intellectual property rights on life. Privatisation of biological diversity and farmers' knowledge is a violation of farmers' rights and a sheer disrespect of the sanctity of life itself.

Recently, a series of backdoor entry of GE in food and agriculture has been orchestrated by the biotech industry. Bt Cotton, in spite of brilliant struggles by farmers' and people's movements, has got the approval of the Indian and Pakistani governments. Sri Lanka, the island-nation at the southern tip of the subcontinent, had bravely banned the entry of GMs into the country. But it was completely browbeaten by American pressures and had to withdraw its ban in a hurry.

Public debates must necessarily precede any decisions made on agriculture; they must go through and be endorsed by a farmers jury composed on small and marginal farmers especially women. Recognizing the enormous impact of the media in these countries, there is a urgent need to orient it towards highlighting the concerns and initiatives of farming and other communities in promoting biodiverse farming rather than fall into the trap of corporate farming.

Also it is imperative that public agricultural research funding must be re-oriented towards biodiversity-based and a farmer-led research. And not as in the proposed collaborative research project between the Indira Gandhi Agricultural University, Raipur, India and Syngenta, which not only threatens to take physical possession of rice germplasm but also to divert the farmers of their rights towards the varieties that they have developed. All such research proposals must be transparent and subject to public scrutiny.

In the spirit of solidarity with the farmers and farming communities that are keeping diversity alive, we expressly state that given the diversity and richness of the regions' agricultural systems, knowledge and biological endowment there is no place for transgenic crops in Asia and elsewhere in the world.

You are urged to join us in the campaign against Genetic Engineering in Agriculture.