Seeds Under Siege – Current Threats

A Call to Action – Seeds Under Siege

Seeds of Sovereignty reveals how small farmers are reviving their rich diversity of seeds, knowledge and farming practices. The film comes at a critical time as the age old practices of enhancing seed diversity are being threatened globally.

Around the world, corporations and their government allies are instigating an unprecedented legal assault on farmers’ rights to breed, save and exchange their own seeds. These practices have been the foundation of  food and farming systems since agriculture began 10,000 years ago, and are responsible for the rich diversity of cultural foods across the planet today.

Over the last year, the corporate lobby for control of seed has reached a climax. Designed to create a monopoly over the global food system, the agro-chemical industry has mounted a systematic campaign in each continent to outlaw farmers’ ancient seed practices and enforce the sole use of commercial seed. This has little to do with feeding the world and much to do with feeding corporate profits.

In Europe…

During 2013, civil society groups have been challenging the proposed EU Plant Reproductive Material Law that would create new powers to regulate and classify all plant life, anywhere in Europe. Under this law it would become illegal to grow, breed or exchange any vegetable, seed or tree unless approved by the new EU Plant Variety Agency. To register any plant material for sale,  it would have to pass complicated and costly tests and registration procedures, pricing out small-scale and organic farmers, gardeners and breeders.

In Latin America…

Controversial ‘free trade’ agreements and The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) have been at the heart of a corporate offensive to privatise seed in Latin America, simultaneously repressing farmers’ rights and freedoms. New seed laws being drafted for the region, would allow companies to patent even the indigenous plant varieties developed by farmers over generations, and impose harsh penalties for non-compliance. This would effectively criminalise traditional peasant control of seed.

In Africa…

Undermining the life giving diversity of traditional African farming systems are two schemes supposedly dedicated to ‘feeding the world’: The G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSAN) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Both initiatives involve ‘harmonising’ seed laws regionally, lifting restrictions on commercial seed and criminalising farmers who save and exchange seed. Cargill, Syngenta, Monsanto, Yara are some of the handful of global corporations seeking to capture the African seed market. This is a huge potential market for them because 80% of the seed on the continent  is developed by small farmers. The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) met last week to seek approval for a regional legal framework which is part of the initiative to enable corporate monopoly of seed on the continent.

In Asia…

Seed laws in Asia have been manipulated to serve the interests of multinationals since the Green Revolution of the 1960s. Following the pattern elsewhere in the world, restrictions on farmers rights continue to tighten across the region.

Popular Resistance is Growing!

In Europe, public pressure brought to bear upon the EU has stalled the passing of the monopoly law so far.

In Latin  America, social movements have won numerous battles to stop the monopoly seed laws from advancing. Most recently, the courageous Colombian farmers’ uprising successfully led to the suspension of Law 970 that had made seed saving illegal. In Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela progress on these laws has also been halted.  Meanwhile, La Via Campesina, the  global peasant farmers movement for food sovereignty continues to strengthen the campaign to “defend seeds as a heritage of all peoples”.

In Africa, communities are  resisting unjust seed laws by redoubling efforts to revive and maintain their own seed diversity and by joining forces with La Via Campesina and The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), in their campaigns to block the seed monopoly laws across the continent. 

In the Spirit of Gandhi: It is Time to Obey a Higher Law

Without the seed diversity developed by traditional agro-ecological farming systems over millennia, agriculture across the planet will struggle to adapt to climate change instability.

Each and every one of us can play a vital role in preventing Corporate Seed Monopoly Laws, wherever we are in the world. We can support the revival of diverse seeds and foods in our area by buying from the farmers who are preserving and promoting this diversity.

This is one of the most important commitments we can make to ensure our children have healthy nutritious food, from a resilient planet, under the custodianship of millions of real farmers, growing real food for the love of it!

“We are reminded at this time, that in the spirit of Gandhi, civil disobedience is necessary, when laws undermine our rights and responsibilities. Seeds…are a gift of nature and the result of centuries of hard work by farmers around the planet, who have selected, conserved and bred seeds. They are the source of life and the first link in our food chain.” 

Dr Vandana Shiva