Imported hybrid seeds put local varieties in danger
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Excessive use of imported hybrid seeds in local farming to boost rice production will affect local plant varieties and eventually lead them to extinction, experts have warned.
The government has targeted a 10 million ton rice surplus by 2014. To that end, it has introduced imported hybrid rice.
According to Said Abdullah of the People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty (KRKP), such program would only disadvantage farmers and harm crops. Said emphasized that imported hybrids have lower productivity than local varieties and are more susceptible to Brown Planthoppers, a pest locally known as “wereng”, and other diseases.
“The excessive use of imported hybrids will endanger food crops, particularly indigenous ones. Eventually, they will become extinct as nobody will grow them,” he said.
Under the Direct Rice Seeds Aid Program in the period of 2007-2012, the government spent Rp 5.7 trillion (US$604.2 million) to subsidize the importation of hybrid seeds with the aim of boosting production.
The program, in fact, has disadvantaged local farmers as the genetically-engineered seeds are imported from countries with extremely different agroecology conditions and are susceptible to local pests.
The ETC Group, an international agency monitoring biodiversity, agriculture and human rights, revealed in 2007 that at least 67 percent of seed markets with a total trade value of $14.78 million are controlled by only 10 transnational companies. In Indonesia, these transnational companies control seed markets.
In 2008, at least 71 percent of corn seeds, 40 percent of rice seeds and 70 percent of holticulture plant seeds were controlled by the companies.
Masroni, a 40-year-old farmer from Kalensari village in Widasari, Indramayu, West Java, once used the hybrid seeds. After realizing their shortcomings, switched back to local varieties, such as Ciherang.
“It produces a far better harvest compared to the imports,” said Masroni.
Dwi Andreas Santosa, a lecturer from Bogor Institute of Agriculture said that using such seeds would mean increased costs to farmers.
“Genetically-engineered seeds boost crop yields in the first harvest; but, productivity tends to decline,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Using local varieties would be much more effective to boost crop productivity, he added.
It is not easy for local farmers to promote use of “hybrid seeds” they developed from local varieties. Law No. 12/1992 on Crop Cultivation Systems stipulates that any developer can release seeds to market only after certification from the government requiring multilocation seed tests.
sible for local farmers to release the seeds to the market,” said Said, adding that the Indonesian Farmer Seed Bank Association, newly established organization of seed breeders, would soon submit a judicial review on the 1992 law to the Constitution Court.