A Commons sense

Poor Indian farmers are rich in two things: knowledge and biodiversity. The future of food depends on preserving both:

Since the 1970s, the number of rice varieties in India has plummeted from roughly 100,000 to 7,000. The massive drop is largely due to the rise of high-yield crops born from the Green Revolution, which helped relieve a strained food supply. However, the extinct rice varieties don’t just signify a loss of heritage and cultural identity in Indian villages – each lost variety is a small defeat in the battle to preserve biodiversity and genetic variation.


The ecologist Dr Debal Deb – who has been called India’s ‘rice warrior’ and ‘seed saviour’ – has a creative solution to his country’s vanishing rice problem: a massive seed bank that houses and preserves rare indigenous rice before it disappears. In addition to fighting the long-term effects of monoculture, he’s also working to protect small farmers from shady international patenting practices by documenting and copyrighting their unique rice strains so they can be fairly compensated for their innovations and knowledge.