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Accueil > Newsletters Nyéléni in English > Newsletter no 38 - Peasant seeds, the heart of the struggle for Food (...) > In the spotlight

Newsletter no 38 - Peasant seeds, the heart of the struggle for Food Sovereignty

In the spotlight

lundi 9 décembre 2019, par Manu

In the spotlight 1 - Global Campaign “Peasant seeds a heritage of peoples in the service of humanity”, a way to promote Food Sovereignty

Peasants’ seeds are a heritage of peoples in the service of humanity. Seed is life, the basis of global food production, essential for peasants to produce healthy and culturally appropriate food and crucial for consumers and citizens who seek to find healthy and diversified food. Seed is part of peasant culture and is our heritage, allowing us to resist, maintain our ancestral wisdom and defend our peasant identity.

However, under the pretext of “improving” seed productivity, agribusiness has created a neo-liberal seed system that has homogenized, impoverished and monopolized seeds, causing the loss of three-quarters of seed diversity and annihilating a diversity that it took people – thanks to the work of peasants – 10000 years to generate.

Three companies, Monsanto-Bayer, Syngenta-ChemChina and Dupont-Dow, control more than 50% of the world’s commercial seeds – increasingly genetically modified seeds to resist herbicides and produce insecticides. Under the impetus of the WTO (World Trade Organisation), the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund), and through free trade agreements and laws protecting seed and breeders’ rights, such as UPOV (Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) model laws, this seed system only allows the circulation of its own seeds, criminalizing the saving, exchange, utilization, donation and sale of local farmer seeds. The situation is such that peasants have lost control over local seeds, are criminalised for the use and exchange of their seeds heritage, and often subjected to raids and seizure of their seeds. Biodiversity is endangered by the use of chemical fertilizers, hybrid seeds and genetically modified organisms – including the consequences of the new breeding techniques – developed by multinational companies. Citizens have difficulty accessing healthy, diversified and culturally appropriate food.

La Via Campesina and its allies are fighting to change the situation. As part of its Global Campaign “Peasant Seeds a heritage of peoples in the service of humanity”, launched in Rome in 2001, La Via Campesina and its member organizations have carried out training, education, mutual support and seeds exchange. The peasant movements continue to fight for national laws and international treaties to guarantee the rights of farmers to save, use, exchange, sell and protect their seeds against biopiracy and genetic contamination, we write books on the history of seeds, carry out studies and mapping. La Via Campesina’s network of agroecology schools around the world, also organize peasants’ seed exchange fairs. Thereby, the global campaign promotes the recovery of traditional systems for the conservation, maintenance and exchange of local seeds and the inalienable collective rights of peasants over their seeds.

On October 16, 2018, on the occasion of the World Day of Action for Food Sovereignty of Peoples and Against Multinationals, La Via Campesina stepped up this campaign by calling for coordinated the action called “Adopt a Seed” [1]. The movement is calling on every peasant, peasant family or community to engage in the adoption of a variety of plant, to become the guardian of this seed, ensuring its propagation, reproduction and distribution and to engage in the collective defence of their rights to use, exchange, sell and protect them. So far, in Brazil, Palestine, Paraguay, India, Thailand, Zimbabwe, South Korea, Indonesia, Canada and several other countries – through direct actions and seed fairs – peasants have engaged in conserving native varieties and teaching others about agroecology.

Without seeds, there is no agriculture ; without agriculture, there is no food ; and without food, there are no peoples !

In the spotlight 2 - The call for action to “adopt a seed” reaches across the world

Peasants’ seeds are a heritage of peoples in the service of humanity. This is what the International Peasants’ Movement believes, as well as being the name of the campaign launched by La Via Campesina (LVC) to protect and preserve peasants’ seeds. Under the auspices of this campaign, LVC has launched the call for action to “Adopt a seed” several times and in several regions of the world, calling for peasants and their families to exchange and propagate peasants’ seeds.

On the World Day of Action for Food Sovereignty, on 16 October 2018, LVC launched an appeal to its member organisations and alliances and to all peasant families, to get involved in the “adopt a seed” action (for more read Box 1). The first event took place in Brazil with the Small Farmers Movement (MPA), one of its member organisations.

The world exchange was held between 29 August and 4 September 2018, when a delegation from LVC travelled 1,700 km across Brazil, visiting peasant families. The delegates, from Korea, Costa Rica, Palestine, Switzerland and Zimbabwe, represented organisations already involved in conserving seeds in their own countries. During this international exchange, the LVC delegates looked carefully at the MPA’s experience in the states of Sergipe and Bahia in northeast Brazil. They also visited the “seed houses” established to stock peasant communities’ seeds. These are overseen by the “seed central office” which stocks all the seeds in the area and also serves as a place for training and farming production. Information was given and discussions were held on seed laws as well as agroecological practices and representations of rural art and culture.

As well as being the International Day of Action for People’s Food Sovereignty, 16 October 2019 was also the date when an international peasants’ seeds exchange took place in Palestine. This was organised by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and La Via Campesina. Farmers from all four corners of the globe came to take part in the exchange : Honduras, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, South Africa, Colombia, the Netherlands, Mozambique, Germany and the United States. The UAWC has a wealth of experience in preserving peasants’ seeds, having established its first seed house 17 years ago in Hebron. The house has enabled several seed varieties to be saved from extinction, and has stood up to Israeli occupation which imposed hybrid seeds sold by Bayer-Monsanto. All the seeds from the UAWC bank come from peasants and undergo a two-year verification process in an internal laboratory before being redistributed to the peasants (for more read Voice from the Field 1).

LVC’s next international seed exchange will take place in Korea in 2020. Seed exchange fairs are organised in several regions of the world by members of the movement and alliances. The “adopt a seed” action is one of solidarity, resistance and mysticism which should be replicated throughout the world in order to preserve peasants’ seeds, which are the ground rock of our agriculture and our lives.


[1For more information check Box 1 of this edition.