Seed saving and sharing is an ethical duty that cannot be interfered with by any national or international law which makes seed saving and seed sharing a crime. The law of the seed must protect the freedom of seed and the freedom of farmers based on the following principles:
- Freedom of Farmers To Save Seeds: The first duty and right of farmers is to protect and rejuvenate biodiversity. The conservation of biodiversity requires by necessity the saving of seed. Laws of compulsory registration and policies for “seed replacement” undermine the freedom of farmers to save farmers varieties. “Intellectual Property” laws, patent laws and breeders rights laws violate the “law of the seed” by making it illegal to save seeds.
- Freedom of Farmers to Breed New Varieties: Farmersʼ rights are rights derived from their intellectual contributions to the breeding of seeds and plant genetic resources. Farmers are inherently breeders, though their breeding objectives and methods might differ from the objectives and methods of the seed industry. Farmers breed for diversity while the seed industry breeds for uniformity. Farmersʼ breeding strategies and intellectual contribution must be recognized in order to stop the practice of using farmersʼ seeds as “raw material” with no intellectual contribution of farming communities. Farmers have the right to freely develop new varieties of seeds.
- Freedom from Privatization and Biopiracy: Farmers’ rights arise from their past, present and future contribution to the conservation, modification and exchange of plant genetic resources. Farmer’s innovation in plant breeding takes place collectively and cumulatively. Therefore farmers’ rights arising from their role as conservers and breeders have to be vested in farming communities not in individual farmers.
The recognition of farmersʼ collective rights is necessary for protecting seeds and biodiversity as a commons. The practice of using farmers’ varieties as “raw material” to then claim patents and intellectual property rights on the basis of invention of the traits derived from farmersʼ varieties, must be stopped.
This phenomena can be referred to as biopiracy. The global seed industry misuses the concept of “common heritage of mankind” to freely appropriate farmers varieties, convert them into proprietary commodities and then sell them back to the same farming communities at high costs and heavy royalties. Such privatization through patents and intellectual property violates the rights of farming communities and leads to debt, impoverishment and dispossession of small farmers.
Farmers and food-communitiesʼ access to seeds and plant genetic resources must not be restricted by private property claims and patent laws, nor by withholding germ plasm stored outside the region of origin. This freedom is the basis of farmersʼ seed sovereignty.