Revival of Seed Diversity Crucial for Food for the Future
The ability to grow resilient, nutritious food in adequate quantity for a growing global population in the face of climate change must necessarily be rooted in the revival of seed diversity. Thus, farmers’ complex knowledge, and their right to save, adapt, exchange and sell seed must be recognized and protected in policy and practice.
These assertions are the basis of a new report entitled ‘Seeds for Life: Scaling up Agro-Biodiversity’, published jointly by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, Gaia Foundation and African Biodiversity Network. The report unequivocally states that “Traditional ecological knowledge systems are based on the fact that without seed we cannot eat, that seed is sacred, that seed is life.” It rues the loss of 75% of the world’s crop diversity and traditional farming wisdom since the advent of the Green Revolution in the 1960s along with the continued erosion of farmers’ rights to seeds from restrictive seed laws and policies, including on intellectual property.
Using case studies, the report discusses strategies on how to revive seed diversity: by providing policy support for local seed systems, respecting farmers’ science, promoting seed networks, enabling seed exchanges between regions, employing effective seed storage strategies, recognizing women and elders as knowledge holders, and restoring the cultural significance of seeds.
It also provides key recommendations for policy and practice which are reproduced below. The full report can be downloaded from: www.gaiafoundation.org/sites/default/files/seedsforlifereport.pdf.
With best wishes
Excerpt from SEEDS FOR LIFE: SCALING UP AGRO-BIODIVERSITY
Key Recommendations for Policy and Practice
ท Reform our food system towards supporting peasant farming, agroecology, seed diversity and local markets.
ท Reject introduction and harmonization of seed laws based on UPOV restrictions or even more restrictive intellectual property standards.
ท Reject nationalization of the recently-approved COMESA agreement to harmonize seed trade laws, as there has been no consultation on the issue at national level in any African country.
ท Reject patents on seeds and living organisms.
ท Reject GM technologies that impact negatively on biodiversity and the lives and livelihoods of farmers and consumers.
ท Reject policy changes dictated by the G8 New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition that undermine African farmers’ land, seed and livelihoods.
ท Revitalise the international Seed Treaty
ท Nationalize the African Model Law on Farmers’ Rights, which ensures farmers’ continued access to and control over their plant genetic diversity, as well as the African Model Law on Biotechnology.
ท Agree strategies for agriculture that prioritise farmer-controlled seed diversity and in-situ conservation for adaptation, e.g. in the UN negotiations on Climate Change.
ท Nationalize policies that support farmer based seed breeding and free exchange and distri- bution of agroecological seeds
ท Promote participatory plant breeding in collaboration with farmers, enabling them to further enhance seed diversity and use knowl- edge that meets their many different needs.
ท Support networks of farmers and seed savers, and processes for them to share seed, knowl- edge and experiences.
ท Support community seed banks that ensure seed is in constant use by farmers, enabling them to try out, develop and multiply many different varieties.
ท Instigate community dialogues with all genera- tions including elders, to remember, rediscover and revive seed and related knowledge.
ท Celebrate and support communities’ seed diversity and seed saving with seed festivals and fairs.
ท Support revival of cultural practices around seed by using participatory methodologies that draw out knowledge and respect, while ensuring that this legacy is passed on to the generations to come.
ท Become a gardener yourself. Use heritage and non-hybrid seeds, and/or become a seed guardian with an organization promoting seed diversity