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Lokhandwala, Zainab (2024) Indian Farmers And Rights Over Biogenetic Resources: Towards Greater Food Sovereignty. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Biogenetic resources are the foundational building blocks of all agriculture. These include seeds of different plant varieties, germplasm, and traditional knowledge. Their conservation through their in-situ use and cultivation is essential for agroecological sustainability. In the wake of industrialised agriculture, characterised by the use of high yielding variety seeds, technological and resource intensiveness, and monocropping, many traditional variety seeds have become endangered or lost forever. In India, a majority of farmers still use traditional seeds, and many staples such as rice and millets are grown using these varieties. Traditional varieties and farming practices are therefore crucial for food security in the Indian context. However, since the 1960 Green Revolution, seed liberalisation policies, and seed laws that inadequately regulate private players, many farmers have been shifting away from the use of traditional farm-saved seeds to adopt improved and hybrid varieties. Amidst an ongoing agrarian crisis and migration away from the rural countryside, farmers are increasingly losing control over their own biogenetic resources, which has shifted to government and commercial enterprises. The issue of loss of farmers’ control over their seeds has not been adequately addressed within the current legal framework. This framework is overwhelmingly occupied by intellectual property law, and legal constructions meant to combat its ill effects, such as farmers rights. These remain cut off from the issue of acute crisis and farmers’ distress, and therefore attempts towards conversation of traditional seeds remain weak. In this context, this thesis presents a hypothesis, that food sovereignty has the potential for inspiring and imagining stronger biogenetic rights in India. Food sovereignty, as a concept, has evolved as a counter movement against industrialised agriculture. It emphasises local food systems, greater farmer control, sustainability, and agroecology. As a legal concept, food sovereignty has found utterance in many laws and policies across jurisdictions, as well as within the provisions of the 2018 Peasants Rights Declaration. This thesis argues that in order to propose stronger biogenetic rights for farmers, one has to move beyond the established boundaries of what intellectual property law and farmers rights cover and take a radical approach in addressing farmers’ core concerns. Food sovereignty-inspired biogenetic rights can be read and introduced within India using new languages of valuations that go beyond mere productivism, and are centered around food, farmers, and ecology. Empirical research from 2 contrasting sites in India - Gujarat and Sikkim has guided this thesis in developing a biogenetic rights framework in India that is inspired by food sovereignty, that can accommodate the diversities in India without losing its essence.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Philippe Cullet
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2024 15:37

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