Special Correspondent

Workshop on agro-biodiversity held

CUDDALORE: Since much of the biodiversity in the country is in the custody of farmers and tribals, they should be given the patent rights for conservation and propagation of species, according to S. Kannaiyan, Chairman of the National Biodiversity Authority, Chennai.

He was delivering the presidential address at a national workshop on “Agro-biodiversity Hot Spots and Access and Benefit Sharing” organised under the aegis of the Faculty of Agriculture at Annamalai University in Chidambaram.

Mr. Kannaiyan said India was one of the richest centres of crop orgin and plant diversity in the world. Equally magnificent was its rich diversity in livestock, poultry and fish. Of the 4,200 endemic species of higher plants reviewed, 2,532 species were found to be located in the Himalayan region, followed by the peninsular region — 1,788 species and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands — 185 species. Certain estimates had put the number of species at 8,900 that included medicinal plants and those having the religio-ritual values, which were semi-domesticated and semi-wild.

The farming community and tribals had been propagating the species over generations either through conscious or unconscious selection process. As such, they should be viewed as preservers of genetic variability.

Seed rights

Mr. Kannaiyan said the farmers should be permitted to freely produce their requirements of seeds and exchange seed material with fellow farmers. As long as they did not turn into large-scale commercial producers of the protected varieties, their freedom to use farm seeds or exchange them should not be affected by the plant breeders’ rights.

India had taken initiatives to protect bio-diversity and bio-resources, and in this regard, the Bio-diversity Act 2002 acquired significance. Sections III and IV of the Act dealt specifically with access to genetic material, traditional knowledge and technology-transfer, Mr. Kannaiyan said.

Vice-Chancellor of Annamalai University L.B. Venkatrangan called for establishment of institutional and community gene banks, for both in-situ and ex-situ conservation. G. Kuppuswamy, Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, also spoke.