Farmers, first of all, are breeders. They might not have the lab coats that have come to define modern plant breeding, but their wisdom, knowledge and contribution is unquestionable. To be able to continue breeding, using their own seed, is their first right, their first freedom and their first duty.
This right has been recognised in India’s Plant Variety Protection and Farmers Rights Act
“39 (iv) a farmer shall be deemed to be entitled to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into force of this Act”
All seeds bred by the public sector or by private corporations are based on varieties bred by farmers.
For the last 2 decades, Monsanto has forcefully monopolised the cotton seed sector with its Bt Cotton seeds, through illegal, illegitimate and corrupt means. It controls 95% of the cotton seed supply and collects royalties in the form of technology fees even tough it does not have a valid patent – because Monsanto introduced Bt cotton into India illegally, before India changed its patent laws (following a WTO – TRIPS dispute), and when we did amend our patent act we introduced clause 3 (j) clearly defining that biological processes are not inventions.