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By Via Campesina
Peasant seeds are dignity, culture and life. The Seed Treaty must prohibit all forms of patenting; protection of varieties and their royalties on seeds that reproduce the fields; as well as any other form of industrial property over living beings, while it does respect industrial property rights.
Today we are victims of a war for control of seeds. Our agriculture is threatened by industries that try to control our seeds by all possible means. The result of this war will be decisive for the future of humanity, because we all depend on seeds for our daily nutrition.
An actor in this war is the seed industry, genetic engineering, hybrid technologies and agrochemical products, which wants to take over our seeds to multiply their profits, forcing farmers to be dependent consumers of their seeds. On the other side are the peasants, who conserve and reproduce our seeds through our living systems of local, peasant and indigenous seeds, seeds that are the heritage of our peoples, guarded and reproduced by women and men from the countryside. Our seeds are a wealth that we generously put at the service of humanity.
The industry has invented many ways to loot seeds to manipulate them, in order to mark them with their industrial property titles, and then force us, the peasant peoples of the world, to buy their privatized seeds each year instead of saving and selecting our own. own seeds for the next sowing. Their methods include hybrid seeds that cannot be reproduced by farmers, transgenics, and industrial property on seeds, patents or plant variety certificates that are imposed through international treaties and national laws. They are all methods of robbery and plunder, because all the seeds of the industry are in fact the product of thousands of years of selection and crosses made by our peoples. Thanks to us peasants, humanity has the great diversity of crops that, together with the breeding and domestication of animals, today feed the world.
In their eagerness to create monopolies and steal the natural assets of the peoples, corporations and governments bought by them, they put all agriculture and food of humanity at risk. A few uniform varieties replace thousands of local varieties, eroding the genetic diversity that sustains our diet. Faced with climate change, diversity is strength and uniformity is weakness. Commercial seeds drastically reduce humanity's ability to cope with and adapt to climate change. That is why we have pointed out that peasant agriculture, with its peasant seeds, contributes to cooling the planet.
It is well known in our communities that hybrid seeds and transgenic seeds require large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and water, which increases production costs and damages the environment. In addition, they are much more susceptible to droughts, diseases and pests, generating hundreds of thousands of cases of destroyed crops and ruined family economies. The industry has "improved" the seeds so that they cannot be grown without the help of harmful chemicals, so that they are harvested with heavy machinery, and that they support artificial preservation during long transport distances. But it has neglected characteristics important to our health. The result is seeds that have lost their nutritional value and are saturated with chemical poisons. These seeds are at the root of numerous chronic diseases and widespread allergies, as well as pollution of the land, water and air we breathe.
In contrast, peasant systems of local rescue, revaluation, conservation and adaptation through selection and reproduction in peasant fields, as well as peasant-to-peasant seed exchanges, maintain and increase the genetic biodiversity of the global food system, and They also give us the capacity and flexibility to cope with diversified ecosystems, changing climates and hunger in the world.
Our seeds are more adapted to local planting conditions, produce food of better nutritional quality, and operate with high productivity in agro-ecological systems without pesticides or other expensive inputs. But hybrids and GMOs contaminate our seeds and put them in danger of extinction. Hybrids replace our seeds in their places of origin and lead to their disappearance. Humanity cannot survive without peasant seeds, and yet the seeds of corporations directly threaten their existence.
We must not be wrong. We are facing a war for seeds. And the future of each and all depends on the result. It is through this perspective that the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) must be analyzed, to understand what is at stake and what positions should be set.
The International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
First of all, it is necessary to place the Treaty in its historical context, in the history of attempts to strip us of our seeds. It is clear to us that industry and most governments use the Treaty to legitimize industry access to peasant seeds held in different world collections. The Treaty recognizes and legitimizes industrial property over seeds, justifying dispossession and monopoly. In the Treaty, the flowery language about farmers' rights leaves the responsibility for its enforcement to the states, but the states do not enforce it. We see mentioning these rights as an attempt to protect against our possible protests and complaints.
The result is a treaty that legitimizes the laws of the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding industrial property rights; thus, it is legally binding on industrial property rights and plant breeders 'rights, but allows states to disregard farmers' rights, even if it uses nice language. It is a contradictory and ambiguous treaty, a treaty that in practice takes the side of dispossession.
However, this does not mean that all is lost. The Treaty could be accepted, from the peasant point of view, but the corrections must be greater and are urgent. Therefore, La Via Campesina affirms that:
We cannot conserve biodiversity and feed the world and while our rights to sow, save, exchange and sell our seeds are criminalized through laws that legalize the privatization and commercialization of seeds. The Seed Treaty is the only existing treaty to date that contemplates peasant rights, but the states do not respect these rights, while they do respect industrial property rights. For this reason, the Treaty must give priority to peasant rights and these must be binding. They must be applied in each of the 127 countries that ratified the Treaty.
The Treaty itself goes against peasant rights when it promotes patents and other forms of industrial property over seeds. The Treaty must prohibit all forms of patent; protection of varieties and their royalties on seeds that reproduce the fields; as well as any other form of industrial property over living beings.
The industry has acquired an immense debt for appropriating our seeds and destroying cultivated biodiversity to replace it with some manipulated varieties. The industry must pay off this old debt, but this in no way gives it the right to continue to appropriate the seeds. Industry must pay and also stop appropriating our seeds and destroying biodiversity.
The Treaty proposes the "distribution of benefits" of the industrial property rights that it recognizes. These "benefits" are the result of the dispossession of our peasant seeds. We do not want to participate in the theft of our seeds, we refuse to share benefits because we do not want industrial property rights over the seeds.
We demand public policies in favor of living systems of peasant seeds, systems that are in our communities and under our control. These policies should not promote non-reproducible seeds, such as hybrids, but should promote reproducible and local seeds. These policies should prohibit monopolies, favor agroecology and access to land and care for soils. These public policies should also favor participatory research in the fields of peasants under the control of their organizations and not of the industry. We call on our communities to continue to carefully conserve, protect, develop and share our peasant seeds: this is the best way to resist against dispossession and the best way to preserve biodiversity.
Centralized seed banks do not respond to peasant needs. They are museums of seeds for the benefit of biopirate corporations. Furthermore, in these banks our seeds are threatened by genetic contamination and by industrial property rights. We cannot trust governments and the treaty to preserve them. We refuse to hand over our seeds to the genebanks of the multilateral system and industry as long as there are still patents on plants, their genes or their parts, or other types of industrial property law systems such as plant variety protection that require royalties on seeds reproduced in the fields, as long as transgenics continue to exist.
Seed privatization is a serious threat to our peasant seeds in Africa, Asia and Latin America. But in some of our countries, particularly Europe and North America, the industry's commercial monopoly on seeds has already wiped out most of our local varieties. In these countries we can no longer carry out our peasant selection using commercially available varieties, because they were manipulated so as not to grow well without many chemical inputs or industrial processes. They have lost much of their nutritional value and more and more often GM seeds. We cannot select our new peasant varieties based on the seeds of our parents that are locked up in gene banks. We demand unconditional access to the seed collections of the multilateral system because it is our seeds that are stored in it.
We peasants keep our seeds first in our fields but also in barns and peasant seed houses and in local peasant systems that also constitute small “ex situ” collections. We put these collections "ex situ" as close as possible to our fields so that farmers maintain control, responsibility and access to them. To borrow the language of the Treaty, we peasants build our own "multilateral system." This is the basis on which we can collaborate with the Treaty, reminding him that he is not the only one organizing seed conservation. If the Treaty wants to collaborate with us, it must respect our conditions and our rights and prohibit industrial property rights and GMOs.
Since the Treaty process takes place within the United Nations, it is the states that take responsibility for peasant seed systems. However, the World Trade Organization makes the rights of plant breeders binding, while the rights of farmers are not respected. We demand that the rights of farmers are binding and the rights of plant breeders are subordinate to them. This necessarily means repealing current laws that trade seeds and deny the rights of farmers. We demand the ratification of national laws that recognize the rights of farmers. La Via Campesina calls for the prompt approval and ratification of a peasant rights convention within the United Nations. Agriculture and seeds outside the WTO and free trade agreements.
The Treaty is part of a series of challenges to peasant and indigenous peoples that we are facing today. The Rio + 20 Process leads to a clear confrontation between capitalism disguised in green and peasant agriculture, agroecology and our peasant seeds. La Via Campesina will act to defend agroecology and peasant seeds that represent hope for the future of humanity. As we have shown, sustainable peasant agriculture helps cool the planet and can feed the world.
If the states commit to reform the Treaty, actively and effectively defending the rights of farmers, we are willing to collaborate on the Treaty, including within the mechanisms of a parallel committee based on the model of the Committee on Food Safety that accompanies the process. of FAO in Rome. But we are not going to open the door to a collaboration with the Treaty that will engage us in endless discussions while GMOs, hybrids and industrial property rights strip us of our fields. Whatever the decision of the Treaty to recognize or not those who are the guardians of biodiversity, we will continue to work within our own peasant seed systems, which have in the past and will continue in the future to secure biodiversity and feed the population. humanity. In this way, we are saving the seeds not only for ourselves but also for our children: Peasant seeds are the patrimony of peasant communities and indigenous peoples at the service of humanity.