This week, from 24 to 28 September, witnesses the opening in Oman of the Fifth Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, also known as the seed treaty.
The treaty was ratified to facilitate access for all to seed diversity. However, the hopes raised on the occasion of its adoption in 2001 have been dashed and have led only to failure. Actually the treaty has allowed the seed industry to draw freely and without charge from the huge wealth of seeds accumulated through centuries of selection by peasants and to lock up this wealth in private collections. At the same time, public collections that are accessible to all are disappearing one after the other, and the fundamental right of peasants and small-scale farmers to access, use, exchange and sell their own seeds is being criminalized. If men and women farmers and peasants can no longer save and select their own seeds, their systems of production will lose their capacity to adapt to climate change. It is not only biodiversity but the food security of the entire planet that is at risk.
Under pressure from free trade agreements, seed laws only recognize the proprietary titles, patents and plant variety certificates which the industry has filed in order to take control of all cultivated plants. Peasants and small-scale farmers in Colombia, Thailand, East Africa, Chile and Europe are experiencing this at the very moment. These men and women only have access to industry seeds which they must buy every year and which require for their cultivation an arsenal of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other poisons, all of which affect their health and that of consumers. They are obligated to fight to assert their right of access to traditional seeds.
Victories are still possible, as shown by recent examples in Chile and Colombia, where the mobilization and determination of peasants and family farmers has forced a retreat on the part of governments. According to Eberto Diaz of the International Coordinating Committee of La Via Campesina: “The freezing of decree 970 in Colombia is a victory, admittedly partial, but also an important step for the entire social movement in Colombia. The government has recognized that it is peasants and family farmers who feed us every day. This law was an attack on peasant farming.”
In the opinion of La Via Campesina the Treaty must acknowledge its own failure and stop giving multinationals, free of charge, seeds taken from the fields of peasants and small-scale farmers. The governments that make up the Governing Body of the Treaty must in every country allow and/or continue to allow these peasants and farmers to lawfully use, exchange and sell their own seeds. This is what we have come to demand from governments through our participation in this meeting of the Treaty. These rights are the most basic condition for the conservation and renewal of the plant genetic resources required for our food. Our future depends on it and this is why La Via Campesina called its latest publication on seeds La Via Campesina: Our Seeds, Our Future. It shows how the daily struggle for seeds begins in the fields. It is high time for the Treaty to take this into account.
For more information:
Eberto Diaz (spanish) : + 57-31 03 01 75 34.
Guy Kastler (french): +33 6 03 94 57 21 and email@example.com
Miriam Boyer (english, spanish): +49 16 37 41 17 77 and firstname.lastname@example.org