Seeds alien and Indian

Published : Jun 08, 2002 00:00 IST


KOKOPELLI distributes in Europe nearly 1,500 varieties of traditional, open-pollinated seeds collected from all over the world. These varieties form the official collection of the French National Association of Plant Conservatories. When Dominique Guillet brought 120 varieties from this collection to India for distribution, an academic storm broke out.

But he offered an interesting line of defence: 99 per cent of these seeds are of vegetables such as pumpkin, brinjal, cucumber, tomato and capsicum, which are already in use in India. Moreover, he said, most vegetables being consumed in India, both modern and traditional, had their origins in regions such as Africa and South America. According to him, papaya, corn, pineapple and white sapota originated in Central America, and carrot, onion and garlic are originally from West Asia. "And all these vegetables are eaten by educated city dwellers, not village residents," he said.

Interestingly, Indian agricultural institutes have promoted some of the varieties in Annadana's 'foreign collection'. A tomato variety, P6283 PUSA Ruby, is classified as a vegetable already being grown in India, by Dr. Veeraraghavadatham (A Guide to Vegetable Culture; Ezhil; 1998). Two varieties of watermelons, known as crimson sweet and sugar baby, were introduced in the Indian markets by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. Farmers cite many more varieties that have been smuggled in from countries such Thailand and Japan.

But the idea remains ticklish in a country that is just waking up to the idea of saving seeds. Dr. Alan Tye, a global invasive species specialist with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, says: "Sometimes even non-invasive plants can hybridise with local native relatives to the extent of hybridising the local species out of existence. As long as the risks are recognised, they can be dealt with. But claiming that the risks don't exist is simply denying the evidence."

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment