For millennia, the practice of saving and exchanging seeds has been fundamental to crop production in farming communities across the globe. Now, faced with a growing push on the part of governments and corporate agribusiness to limit this practice and thus threaten the food sovereignty of millions, farmers worldwide are fighting back.
International peasant farmer and food justice groups La Via Campesina and Grain on Wednesday released a new publication detailing how corporate interests are threatening these age-old techniques through privatization, so-called free trade agreements, and aggressive ‘seed laws,’ and what small farmers and indigenous groups are doing to resist these efforts.
According to the publication, entitled Seed Laws That Criminalize Farmers: Resistance and Fightback(pdf), since the rise of ‘seed laws,’ which grew from the large-scale production and commercialization of seeds, the traditional practice of seed saving and sharing has been under threat.
While ‘seed laws’ often refer to intellectual property rules such as patent laws, the report notes that the criminalization of peasant seed practices comes in a number of forms, including “those that regulate trade and investments; regulations related to the health of plants; certification and so-called ‘good agricultural practices’ related to marketing; or so-called biosafety regulations.”
These laws are often passed at the behest of biotechnology companies such as Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta, which boast a “very strong” lobbying machine. Further, they are usually crafted with vague, misleading language and ushered through under a veil of “misinformation” and “secrecy,” the report adds.
“As a whole,” it continues, “these laws often result in peasant seeds being decreed illegal, branded as inadequate, and treated as a source of risk to be eliminated.”
So what can be done?
Grain and La Via Campesina hope their document will serve as a resource to “strengthen the resistance by ensuring that as many people as possible—especially in the rural communities that are most affected—understand these industry-backed laws, their impacts and objectives, as well as the capacity of social movements to replace them with laws that protect peasants’ rights.”