Five ways to buy genuine organic seeds in India

Native organic seeds are naturally resistant to pests, can withstand natural calamities better, and require less water for growth. They can be saved for use in the next season, unlike hybrid varieties, cutting costs for farmers and gardeners

Riya Singh
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Five ways to buy genuine organic seeds in India 

Five ways to buy genuine organic seeds in India 

Organic or native seeds are the backbone of organic farming. Native seeds adapt to a region’s climate over a long period of time. So they are naturally resistant to pests, can withstand natural calamities better and even require less water for growth. Importantly, native organic seeds can be saved for use in the next season, unlike hybrid varieties. As a result, they seeds reduce costs for farmers and gardeners. 

The use of organic and native seeds in the country is intertwined with agricultural practices and cultural traditions.

India has a long history of traditional farming practices where farmers saved seeds from their own harvests for the next planting season. This practice ensured that seeds were adapted to local conditions and preserved the biodiversity of crops.

In the 1960s, the Green Revolution, which aimed to increase agricultural productivity through the adoption of modern technologies, promoted high-yielding varieties of seeds, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. This led to the displacement of traditional seed-saving practices and the adoption of hybrid and genetically modified seeds.

With growing concerns about environmental sustainability and health, there has been a resurgence of interest in organic farming practices. Organic farming promotes the usage of natural inputs and prohibits the use of synthetic chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Efforts are underway to conserve native seed varieties that are well-adapted to local climates and conditions and bring down the cost of cultivation for growers. 

The Indian government has also initiated several programmes to promote organic farming and conserve native seeds. Like the National Programme on Organic Farming (NPOF) provides support and incentives to farmers transitioning to organic practices. Here are five ways to choose genuine organic seeds for gardening or farming:

1. Seed Swapping and Exchanges

One can join local gardening communities or online forums where gardeners exchange seeds. This is a cost-effective way to acquire organic seeds while also engaging with fellow growers. Websites like Seed Savers Exchange facilitate seed swapping on a global scale. Domestically, Navdanya's Seed Tribunal and Bija Yatras (seed march) organise seed fairs and seed exchange programmes.  Many state governments and local NGOs also periodically organise seed exchange programmes to promote organic seed conservation.

2. Local Organic Farmers' Markets

Visit local organic farmers' markets or organic farming cooperatives in your area. Farmers and gadeners often sell organic seeds directly to consumers at reasonable prices. Buying locally not only supports small-scale organic farmers but also ensures the freshness and authenticity of the seeds. Like V Priya Rajnarayanan, an MBA and seed saver from Tirupur, has conserved over 500 varieties of native vegetable seeds and gives them free to farmers and gardeners. 

3. Government Agricultural Departments

Many state agricultural departments in India promote organic farming practices and may provide subsidies or assistance for purchasing organic seeds. The Himachal Pradesh government is setting up a seed bank to save traditional seeds of vegetables, grains, cereals and other crops and will provide them free of cost to farmers. You can contact your local agricultural department or research agricultural programmes that support organic farming initiatives.

4. Online Organic Seed Retailers

Many online retailers specializing in organic seeds have come up in the last decade. Some of them include Seed Basket, Pabhoi Greens and Hariyalee Seed. They offer a wide range of organic seeds at competitive prices. They either conserve them directly in their farms or procure from organic farmers. Since they sell across India, one can buy easily.

5. Seed Banks and Non-Profit Organizations

Many seed banks and non-profit organizations dedicated to preserving indigenous and heirloom seed varieties are working in India. Organizations such as Navdanya and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) often distribute organic seeds to farmers and individuals interested in sustainable agriculture at affordable rates. Navdanya has set up 150 community seed banks to promote the use of native seeds.

Vrihi is South Asia’s largest open-access rice gene bank with seeds from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Philippines, Italy and other countries. Organic paddy growers can reach out to the founder Debal Deb who has saved 1480 indigenous varieties.

When purchasing organic seeds, always look for certifications such as India Organic, USDA Organic, or other recognized organic standards to ensure the seeds are genuine and free from harmful chemicals. Additionally, consider factors like seed variety, adaptability to your local climate, and specific gardening needs when making your purchase.

(Riya Singh is a Ranchi-based journalist who writes on environment, sustainability, education & women empowerment)

Also Read: Seven ways to sell organic farm produce without going to mandis

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