Promoting Agro-Biodiversity Crucial to Ensure Food Security
12 October 2012, Hyderabad, India: Biodiversity is a natural insurance policy against climate change and crop biodiversity plays an important role in climate adaptation as well as mitigation. Therefore, at the present time when increasing importance is given to modern agriculture that emphasizes mono-cropping and use of chemical fertilizers, among other things, it is important to put greater emphasis in the conservation and sustainable use of agro-biodiversity. This was the overall conclusion of a panel discussion titled “Climate change, agriculture biodiversity and food security” organized by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and environment (SAWTEE) at the sidelines of the eleventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP11), being held in Hyderabad, India.
Dr Ratnakar Adhikari, Chief Executive Director of SAWTEE, speaking as the moderator of the event, said that with the top ten seed companies accounting for about 67 percent of the global seed market, the seed industry is becoming more and more concentrated and patenting of seeds is on an increasing trend. This is leading to rise in monoculture cropping patterns, thereby making farmers vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The important roles that farmers have played in maintaining agro-biodiversity have continuously been receiving less recognition, which is worrying since the future of food security clearly lies in the hands of farmers. Therefore, there is need to devise mechanisms to create incentives to farmers, groups and institutions involved in the conservation of agro-biodiversity and development of new varieties. One of such mechanisms rewarding farmers and communities involved in breeding new varieties that are critical for sustaining our food systems. India has recently put in place such a mechanism, which needs to be emulated by other countries, he added.
Dr Krishna Chandra Paudel, Secretary of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, Government of Nepal, said that while biodiversity, in general, is important and should be mainstreamed in the overall development process, issues related to agro-biodiversity should receive at least equal, if not more, importance in all discussions on biodiversity, whether at the national, regional or international levels since it is agro-biodiversity that is crucial to ensuring food security. Presently, whatever importance is given to agro-biodiversity is rather rhetorical. Therefore, it is high time that agro-biodiversity is promoted, more so in the face of increasing negative effects of climate change, he opined.
Making a presentation on the findings of the research on climate change and food security conducted in South Asia, Mr. Suresh P. Singh, Policy Analyst, CUTS International, Jaipur highlighted the importance of scaling up the application of farmers' knowledge and practices both in conservation of biodiversity and promoting adptation to climate change.
Dr Pratap Shrestha, Regional Representative and Scientific Advisor of USC Canada Asia, stressed on the need to promote locally available climate resilient plant and animal genetic resources, strengthen local and community seed systems, and put in place early warning systems for extreme weather conditions. In concurrence with the other speakers, he argued that promotion of ecosystem-based approach to agriculture should be a priority since that is one important mechanism for climate adaptation.
Finally, making a presentation on a joint project between SAWTEE and Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) being implemented in India and Nepal to protect the interest of farmers in the context of climate change and WTO TRIPS Agreement, Ane Jorem, Research Fellow, FNI, Oslo made a plea for bringing the agriculture and food security issues back in the CBD agenda.
More than 100 participants representing governmental, inter-governmental, non-governmental and research organizations from around the world participated in the event.