Tag Archives: seeds

El Salvador: US tries to block seed program

June 10, 2014. Source: WW4 Report

Photo from voiceselsalvador.wordpress.com

Photo from voiceselsalvador.wordpress.com

Four US-based organizations with programs centered on El Salvador were set to deliver a petition to the US State Department on June 6 with the signatures of some 1,000 US citizens opposing what the groups called the “intrusion of the [US] embassy in the sovereign politics of this country.” At issue was an indication by US ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte that the US may withhold $277 million slated for the second phase of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) aid program if the Salvadoran Agriculture Ministry continues its current practice of buying seeds from small-scale Salvadoran producers for its Family Agriculture Plan. The US organizations—the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), US–El Salvador Sister Cities, the SHARE Foundation, and Joining Hands El Salvador Network (RUMES)—charged that the US threat was made “with clear intentions to advance the interests of transnational agricultural companies.” Continue reading

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Filed under Green Economy, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean

Resistance grows in defense of peasant seeds

April 16, 2014. Source: La Via Campesina

Image: La Via Campesina

Image: La Via Campesina

This year millions of men and women farmers of the international peasant movement, La Vía Campesina, mobilize worldwide in favor of pasant seeds. Since April 17, 1996 (1) la Vía Campesina designated this day as a global day of action with allies and firends.

With more than 100 actions at a local and global level (see map) in all continents, la Via Campesina reasserts the importance of local struggles and at the same time underlines the need of a global resistance and organization between the cities and the rural areas. Actions such as land occupations, agroecological festivities, debates and seed exchanges will be carried out until the end of the month as part of these global days of action.

La Vía Campesina denounces laws and interests that seek to prohibit the use, exchange and access to peasant seeds that we consider a heritage of the people at the service of humanity, as well as food sovereignty as part of a commitment to end hunger in the world.

Historically, men and women farmers, and indigenous peoples have conserved and cared for seeds. La Vía Campesina says NO to all attempts to criminalize and make illegal our practices for caring for, producing and sharing seeds. Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Africa, Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Industrial agriculture, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Colombia farmers’ uprising puts the spotlight on seeds

Note: For more on the nation-wide uprising in Colombia, as well as the violent crackdown that has been initiated by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, click here.

In Colombia, we see the very real implications of privatization and free trade.  The neoliberal doctrine threatens lives and livelihoods in the most tangible way when peasants and union leaders are murdered by state or private security forces, and when largely popular movements are met in the streets with military force.

-The GJEP Team

September 4, 2013. Source: GRAIN

On 19 August, Colombian farmers’ organisations initiated a massive nationwide strike. They blocked roads, dumped milk on cars and basically stopped producing food for the cities. The problem? Farmers are being driven out of existence by the government’s policies.

Colombia-ProtestasCacaoculturasThe state provides almost no support for the small-scale farming sector.1 Instead, it embraces a social and economic model that serves the interests of a wealthy elite minority. Recent free trade agreements (FTAs) signed with the US and the EU are undercutting Colombian producers, who can’t compete with subsidised imports.2 The Colombian government has been actively promoting land grabbing by large corporations, many of them foreign (Monica Semillas from Brazil, Merhav from Israel, Cargill from the US), to promote export-oriented agribusiness at the expense of family farming oriented towards food sovereignty.

But the farming sector needs real support, especially in the form of access to land and lower costs of production, protestors argue. Otherwise, Colombian potato and coffee farmers, dairy and meat producers, not to mention small fishers, will not be able to keep up. They are being evicted and exterminated.

With their backs against the wall, a movement of mobilisation began in one part of the country in June and grew into a coordinated national action for August. The farmers’ strike was soon supported by other sectors: oil industry workers, miners, truckers, health sector professionals and others. On 29 August, ten days into the strike, more than 20,000 students joined the movement and shut down the capital city, Bogotá.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression

Farmers and consumers v. Monsanto: David meet Goliath

By Tory Field and Beverly Bell, April 8 2013. Source: Toward Freedom

Photo: Toward Freedom

Photo: Toward Freedom

Bordering an interstate highway in Arkansas, a giant billboard with a photo of a stoic-looking farmer watches over the speeding traffic. He’s staring into the distance against the backdrop of a glowing wheat field, with the caption “America’s Farmers Grow America.” It’s an image to melt all our pastoral hearts.

Until we read the small print in the corner: “Monsanto.”

The maker of Agent Orange, Monsanto’s former motto used to be, “Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible.” Today its tag line is “Committed to Sustainable Agriculture, Committed to Farmers.” Its website claims the company helps farmers “be successful [and] produce healthier foods… while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.” It even boasts of the corporation’s dedication to human rights.

Read the rest on Toward Freedom.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

Seed giants vs. US farmers

February 12, 2013.  Source: Center for Food Safety

seeds_iStock_sm-150x150Today, one week before the Supreme Court hears arguments in Bowman v. Monsanto Co., the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Save our Seeds (SOS) – two legal and policy organizations dedicated to promoting safe, sustainable food and farming systems – will launch their new report, Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.

The new report investigates how the current seed patent regime has led to a radical shift to consolidation and control of global seed supply and how these patents have abetted corporations, such as Monsanto, to sue U.S. farmers for alleged seed patent infringement.

Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers also examines broader socio-economic consequences of the present patent system including links to loss of seed innovation, rising seed prices, reduction of independent scientific inquiry, and environmental issues.

Debbie Barker, Program Director for Save Our Seeds and Senior Writer for the Report, said today:  “Corporations did not create seeds and many are challenging the existing patent system that allows private companies to assert ownership over a resource that is vital to survival, and that, historically, has been in the public domain.”
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Filed under Biodiversity, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

Farmers and Seed Producers Launch Preemptive Strike against Monsanto

Cross-posted from the Cornucopia Institute

Lawsuit Filed To Protect Themselves from Unfair Patent Enforcement on Genetically Modified Seed

Action Would Prohibit Biotechnology Giant from Suing Organic Farmers and Seed Growers If Innocently Contaminated by Roundup Ready Genes

NEW York: On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit today against Monsanto Company challenging the chemical giant’s patents on genetically modified seed. The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their crops ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed.

Monsanto has sued farmers in the United States and Canada, in the past, when there are patented genetic material has inadvertently contaminated their crops.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found at:
(http://www.pubpat.org/assets/files/seed/OSGATA-v-Monsanto-Complaint.pdf)

The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it. The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.

“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed or pollen should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”

Once released into the environment, genetically modified seed can contaminate and destroy organic seed for the same crop. For example, soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola, organic canola became virtually impossible to grow as a result of contamination.

Organic corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa also face the same fate, as Monsanto has released genetically modified seed for each of those crops as well.

Monsanto is currently developing genetically modified seed for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed all agriculture, at stake.

“Monsanto’s threats and abuse of family farmers stops here. Monsanto’s genetic contamination of organic seed and organic crops ends now,” stated Jim Gerritsen, a family farmer in Maine who raises organic seed and is President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. “Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace – to decide what kind of food they will feed their families.”

“Family-scale farmers desperately need the judiciary branch of our government to balance the power Monsanto is able to wield in the marketplace and in the courts,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for The Cornucopia Institute, one of the plaintiffs. “Monsanto, and the biotechnology industry, have made great investments in our executive and legislative branches through campaign contributions and powerful lobbyists in Washington.”

In the case, PUBPAT is asking Judge Buchwald to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement. One reason justifying this result is that Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed are invalid because they don’t meet the “usefulness” requirement of patent law, according to PUBPAT’s Ravicher, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney in the case.

“Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening filing today proves that genetically modified seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false,” added Ravicher who is also a Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.

Ravicher continued, “Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history tells us that’s not possible, and it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply,” said Ravicher. “Monsanto is the same chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB’s and other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not. Now Monsanto says transgenic seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is not.”

The plaintiffs in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc.; OCIA Research and Education Inc.; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society; Mendocino Organic Network; Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems; Global Organic Alliance; Food Democracy Now!; Family Farm Defenders Inc.; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; FEDCO Seeds Inc.; Adaptive Seeds, LLC; Sow True Seed; Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds; Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC; Comstock, Ferre & Co., LLC; Seedkeepers, LLC; Siskiyou Seeds; Countryside Organics; Cuatro Puertas; Interlake Forage Seeds Ltd.; Alba Ranch; Wild Plum Farm; Gratitude Gardens; Richard Everett Farm, LLC; Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc; Genesis Farm; Chispas Farms LLC; Kirschenmann Family Farms Inc.; Midheaven Farms; Koskan Farms; California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm; Taylor Farms, Inc.; Jardin del Alma; Ron Gargasz Organic Farms; Abundant Acres; T & D Willey Farms; Quinella Ranch; Nature’s Way Farm Ltd.; Levke and Peter Eggers Farm; Frey Vineyards, Ltd.; Bryce Stephens; Chuck Noble; LaRhea Pepper; Paul Romero; and, Donald Wright Patterson, Jr.

MORE:

Dr. Carol Goland, Ph.D., Executive Director of plaintiff Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) said, “Consumers indicate, overwhelmingly, that they prefer foods made without genetically modified organisms. Organic farms, by regulation, may not use GMOs, while other farmers forego using them for other reasons. Yet the truth is that we are rapidly approaching the tipping point when we will be unable to avoid GMOs in our fields and on our plates. That is the inevitable consequence of releasing genetically engineered materials into the environment. To add injury to injury, Monsanto has a history of suing farmers whose fields have been contaminated by Monsanto’s GMOs. On behalf of farmers who must live under this cloud of uncertainty and risk, we are compelled to ask the Court to put an end to this unconscionable business practice.”

Rose Marie Burroughs of plaintiff California Cloverleaf Farms said, “The devastation caused by GMO contamination is an ecological catastrophe to our world equal to the fall out of nuclear radiation. Nature, farming and health are all being affected by GMO contamination. We must protect our world by protecting our most precious, sacred resource of seed sovereignty. People must have the right to the resources of the earth for our sustenance. We must have the freedom to farm that causes no harm to the environment or to other people. We must protect the environment, farmers’ livelihood, public health and people’s right to non GMO food contamination.”

Jim Gerritsen, a family farmer in Maine who raises organic seed and is President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association based in Montrose, Colorado, said, “Today is Independence Day for America. Today we are seeking protection from the Court and putting Monsanto on notice. Monsanto’s threats and abuse of family farmers stops here. Monsanto’s genetic contamination of organic seed and organic crops ends now. Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace – to decide what kind of food they will feed their families
– and we are taking this action on their behalf to protect that right to choose. Organic farmers have the right to raise our organic crops for our families and our customers on our farms without the threat of invasion by Monsanto’s genetic contamination and without harassment by a reckless polluter. Beginning today, America asserts her right to justice and pure food.”

Ed Maltby, Executive Director of plaintiff Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) said, “It’s outrageous that we find ourselves in a situation where the financial burden of GE contamination will fall on family farmers who have not asked for or contributed to the growth of GE crops. Family farmers will face contamination of their crops by GE seed which will threaten their ability to sell crops as organically certified or into the rapidly growing ‘Buy Local’ market where consumers have overwhelmingly declared they do not want any GE crops, and then family farmers may be faced by a lawsuit by Monsanto for patent infringement. We take this action to protect family farms who once again have to bear the consequences of irresponsible actions by Monsanto.”

David L. Rogers, Policy Advisor for plaintiff NOFA Vermont said, “Vermont’s farmers have worked hard to meet consumers’ growing demand for certified organic and non-GE food. It is of great concern to them that Monsanto’s continuing and irresponsible marketing of GE crops that contaminate non-GE plantings will increasingly place their local and regional markets at risk and threaten their livelihoods.”

Dewane Morgan of plaintiff Midheaven Farms in Park Rapids, Minnesota, said, “For organic certification, farmers are required to have a buffer zone around their perimeter fields. Crops harvested from this buffer zone are not eligible for certification due to potential drift from herbicide and fungicide drift. Buffer zones are useless against pollen drift. Organic, biodynamic, and conventional farmers who grow identity-preserved soybeans, wheat and open-pollinated corn often save seed for replanting the next year. It is illogical that these farmers are liable for cross-pollination contamination.”

Jill Davies, Director of plaintiff Sustainable Living Systems in Victor, Montana, said, “The building blocks of life are sacred and should be in the public domain. If scientists want to study and manipulate them for some supposed common good, fine. Then we must remove the profit motive. The private profit motive corrupts pure science and increasingly precludes democratic participation.”

David Murphy, founder and Executive Director of plaintiff Food Democracy Now! said, “None of Monsanto’s original promises regarding genetically modified seeds have come true after 15 years of wide adoption by commodity farmers. Rather than increased yields or less chemical usage, farmers are facing more crop diseases, an onslaught of herbicide-resistant superweeds, and increased costs from additional herbicide application. Even more appalling is the fact that Monsanto’s patented genes can blow onto another farmer’s fields and that farmer not only loses significant revenue in the market but is frequently exposed to legal action against them by Monsanto’s team of belligerent lawyers. Crop biotechnology has been a miserable failure economically and biologically and now threatens to undermine the basic freedoms that farmers and consumers have enjoyed in our constitutional democracy.”

Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for plaintiff The Cornucopia Institute said, “We need the court system to offset this power and protect individual farmers from corporate tyranny. Farmers have saved seeds since the beginning of agriculture by our species. It is outrageous that one corporate entity, through the trespass of what they refer to as their ‘technology,’ can intimidate and run roughshod over family farmers in this country. It should be the responsibility of Monsanto, and farmers licensing their technology, to ensure that genetically engineered DNA does not trespass onto neighboring farmland. It is outrageous, that through no fault of their own, farmers are being intimidated into not saving seed for fear that they will be doggedly pursued through the court system and potentially bankrupted.”

ABOUT PUBPAT

The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) is a not-for-profit legal services organization affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
PUBPAT protects freedom in the patent system by representing the public interest against undeserved patents and unsound patent policy. More information about PUBPAT is available from www.pubpat.org.

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Peasant Seeds: Dignity, Culture and Life Farmers in Resistance to Defend their Right to Peasant Seeds

Source: La Via Campesina

BALI SEED DECLARATION

Peasant Seeds: Dignity, Culture and Life

Farmers in Resistance to Defend their Right to Peasant Seeds

Farmers throughout the world are the victims of a war for control over seeds. Our agricultural systems are threatened by industries that seek to control our seeds by all available means. The outcome of this war will determine the future of humanity, as all of us depend on seeds for our daily food.

One actor in this war is the seed industry that uses genetic engineering, hybrid technologies and agrochemicals.  Its aim is the ownership of seeds as a source of increased profits. They do this by forcing farmers to consume its seeds and become dependent on them. The other actor is peasants and family farmers who preserve and reproduce seeds within living, local, peasant and indigenous seed systems, seeds that are the heritage of our peoples, cared for and reproduced by men and women peasants. They are a treasure that we farmers generously place at the service of humanity.

Industry has invented many ways of stealing our seeds in order to manipulate them, mark them with property titles, and thereby force us, the farming peoples of the world, to buy new seeds from them every year, instead of saving and selecting them from our harvest to plant the following year. The industry’s methods include genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and hybrid seeds, which cannot be reproduced by farmers, as well as industrial property over seeds, including patents and plant variety certificates, all of which are imposed through international treaties and national laws. These are but different forms of theft, as all industrial seeds are the product of thousands of years of selection and breeding by our peoples. It is thanks to us, peasants and farmers, that humanity has at hand the great diversity of crops that, together with animal breeding, feeds the world today.

In their drive to build monopolies and steal our natural wealth, corporations and the governments who serve them place at risk all of humanity’s food and agriculture.  A handful of genetically uniform varieties replace thousands of local varieties, eroding the genetic diversity that sustains our food system. Faced with climate change, diversity is a strength, and uniformity a weakness. Commercial seeds drastically reduce the capacity of humanity to face and adapt to climate change. This is why we maintain that peasant agriculture and its peasant seeds contribute to the cooling of the planet.

Our communities know that hybrid and genetically modified seeds require enormous quantities of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and water, driving up production costs and damaging the environment. Such seeds are also more susceptible to droughts, plant diseases and pest attacks, and have already caused hundreds of thousands of cases of crop failures and have left devastated household economies in their wake. The industry has bred seeds that cannot be cultivated without harmful chemicals. They have also been bred to be harvested using large machinery and are kept alive artificially to withstand transport. But the industry has ignored a very important aspect of this breeding: our health. The result is industrial seeds that grow fast have lost nutritional value and are full of chemicals. They cause numerous allergies and chronic illnesses, and contaminate the soil, water and air that we breathe.

In contrast, peasant systems for rediscovering, re-valuing, conserving and exchanging seeds, together with local adaptation due to the local selection and reproduction in farmers’ fields, maintain and increase the genetic biodiversity that underlies our world food systems and gives us the required capacity and flexibility to address diverse environments, a changing climate and hunger in the world.

Our peasant seeds are better adapted to local growing conditions. They also produce more nutritious food, and are highly productive in agroecological farming systems without pesticides or other expensive inputs. But GMOs and hybrids contaminate our seeds and put them in danger of extinction. They replace our seeds in their places of origin and lead to their disappearance. Humanity cannot survive without peasant seeds, yet corporate seeds put their very existence at risk.

Let us not be mistaken. We are faced with a war for control over seeds. And our common future depends on its outcome. It is through this lens that we must analyze the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), in order to understand what is at stake and what positions we should take.

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

First we must situate the Treaty in its historical context of constant attempts to steal our seeds. The industry and most governments are using the Treaty to legitimate the industry’s access to those peasant seeds that are stored in collections around the world. The Treaty recognizes and legitimizes industrial property over seeds, thus creating the required conditions for theft and monopoly control. In the Treaty, the florid language used to describe Farmers’ Rights entrusts individual states with the responsibility for their implementation. However, states do not apply them. Therefore the mentioning of these rights is only an attempt to inoculate the Treaty against our possible protests and denunciations.

The result is a treaty that legitimates the World Trade Organization (WTO) and laws on industrial property rights. It is therefore legally binding with respect to industrial property rights and the rights of plant breeders, while allowing states not to respect Farmers’ Rights.  It is a contradictory and ambiguous treaty, which in the final analysis comes down on the side of theft.

This does not mean that all is lost. The Treaty can be amended from the peasant point of view, but the changes would have to be major and immediate. La Via Campesina affirms that:

  • We cannot conserve biodiversity and feed the world while our rights to save, use, exchange and sell our seeds are criminalized by laws that legalize the privatization and commodification of seeds. The Seed Treaty is the only treaty to date to contemplate farmers’ rights. However states do not respect these rights, in opposition to their respect of industrial property rights. Therefore, the Treaty must give peasant rights the highest priority, and these rights must be legally binding. They must be guaranteed in every one of the 127 countries that have ratified the Treaty.
  • The Treaty itself contradicts farmers’ rights when it promotes patents and other forms of industrial property over seeds. All forms of patents; plant variety protection and its royalties on farm-reproduced seeds; as well as all other forms of industrial property over life must be banned in the Treaty.
  • Industry incurred an immense debt by appropriating our seeds and by destroying cultivated biodiversity in order to replace it with a few manipulated varieties. Industry must repay this past debt, but doing so by no means gives it the right to continue appropriating our seeds. Industry must pay and it must also stop with the appropriation of seeds and the destruction of biodiversity.
  • The Treaty proposes the “sharing of the benefits” of the industrial property rights that it recognizes. These “benefits” result from the very theft of our peasant seeds. We do not want to be offered the proceeds from the theft of our seeds; we do not want benefit sharing because we do not want industrial property rights on seeds.
  • We demand public policies in favor of living, farmers’ seed systems, systems that are in our communities and under our control. These public policies should promote reproducible local seeds, but not non-reproducible seeds, like hybrids. They should prohibit monopolies, and favour instead agroecology, access to land and good care of the soil. These policies should also facilitate participative research in farmers’ fields and under the control of farmers’ organizations, not the control of the industry. We call on our communities to continue to conserve, care for, develop and share our peasant seeds: this is the best form of resistance against theft and the best way to maintain biodiversity.

  • Centralized gene banks do not respond to the needs of farmers. They are seed museums for the benefit of biopirate corporations, and offer no real access to peasant peoples. Moreover, our seeds are in danger inside these banks, threatened by genetic contamination and industrial property rights. We cannot trust governments or the Treaty to conserve them. We refuse to turn our seeds over to the gene banks of the multilateral systems and of the industry as long as the following remain in existence: patents on plants, their genes or other plant parts; other industrial property rights systems such as plant variety protection which demand royalties on farm-saved seeds; GMOs.
  • The commodification of seeds is seriously threatening our peasant seeds in Asia, Latin America and Africa. But in some of our countries, especially in Europe and North America, the commercial monopoly of industrial seeds has already done away with the majority of local varieties. In these countries, we can no longer carry out farmer selection using the varieties that are commercially available, because they are manipulated in such a way that they will not grow well without chemical inputs or industrial processes. They have lost much of their nutritional value and are increasingly modified genetically. We cannot select our new peasant varieties based on the seeds of our parents which are locked up in gene banks. We must have unconditional access to the banks of the multilateral system because it is our seeds that are kept there.

  • We farmers can keep our seeds first and foremost in our fields, but also in our granaries, seed barns and local community seed saving systems which also constitute small “ex situ collections”. We put these “ex situ collections” as close as possible to our fields so that farmers maintain control over them, responsibility for them and access to them. To paraphrase the Treaty, we farmers construct our own “multilateral system”. This is the basis upon which we can collaborate with the Treaty by reminding it that it is not the only entity carrying out seed conservation. If the Treaty wants to collaborate with us, it must respect our rules and our rights, and forbid Industrial Property Rights and GMOs.
  • Since the process of the Treaty is carried out within the United Nations, it is national states that have the responsibility to protect peasant seed systems. Yet, the World Trade Organization (WTO) renders the rights of plant breeders legally binding, while the rights of farmers are not respected. We demand that farmers’ rights be mandatory and that the rights of breeders be subordinated to these farmers’ rights.  This necessarily entails the repeal of seed laws that privatize and commodify seeds and deny peasant rights. We demand the adoption of national laws that recognize Farmers’ Rights. La Via Campesina calls for the rapid approval and ratification of an international convention on peasant rights in the United Nations. Agriculture and seeds have no place in the WTO and Free Trade Agreements.

  • This Treaty is but part of a series of challenges that peasant and indigenous peoples are facing today.  The Rio + 20 process is a clear confrontation between ‘greenwashed’ capitalism, and peasant agriculture, agroecology and our peasant seeds. La Via Campesina will act to defend agroecology and farmers’ seeds which represent hope and are the future of humanity. As we have shown, sustainable peasant agriculture can both contribute to the cooling of the planet and feed the world.

·       If governments commit to reforming the Treaty by effectively and actively defending Farmers’ Rights, we are willing to collaborate with the Treaty, including in a parallel committee, modeled on the Committee for Food Security that accompanies the FAO process in Rome. But we do not want to open the door to a collaboration with the Treaty that will thrust us into interminable discussions while GMOs, hybrids and industrial property rights expel us from our fields. Whether or not the Treaty recognizes those of us who are the stewards of biodiversity, we will continue to work within our own peasant seed systems, which have assured genetic diversity and fed the world in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. We are keeping seeds not only for ourselves, but also for our children. Peasant seeds are the heritage of peasant communities and indigenous peoples in the service of humanity.

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Percy Schmeiser vs Monsanto: The Story of a Canadian Farmer’s Fight to Defend the Rights of Farmers and the Future of Seeds

Percy Schmeiser was sued by Monsanto for patent violations when their security goons found GE canola in Percy’s canola fields.  The judge that ruled on the case ruled that it did not matter how the GE canola got onto his field, he was liable for breaking patent laws and the canola belonged to Monsanto.

This is extremely significant to the struggle against genetically engineered trees, since native versions of GE trees–like pine and poplar–can spread their pollen for up to hundreds of miles, widely contaminating wild forests.  These contaminated trees would then theoretically belong to the company that patented them, regardless of where they are found–on private land, on national park land, or on state land.

This is one more reason why the environmental release of GE trees must be stopped.

–GJEP Team

______________________________________________________

Cross posted from Democracy Now!

Gathered here in Bonn this week are some eighty Right Livelihood Award laureates, including the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who has battled the biotech giant Monsanto for years. When Monsanto seeds blew into Schmeiser’s property, Monsanto accused him of illegally planting their crops and took him to court. Ultimately his case landed in the Canadian Supreme Court. He was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1997 for fighting to defend the rights of farmers and the future of seeds.

Click here to listen to the interview.

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