- Eliminate and phase out toxic inputs: In order to reduce the toxic contamination of our food chain and environment, seed breeding needs to shift from a chemical input response to seeds that are better adapted to the requirements of agro ecological practices.
- Diversity within varieties: Further development of seed should be based on the broadest possible genetic diversity as a means to reducing the risk of susceptibility to pests and adverse environmental conditions, and to enhance the natural diversity. To this end an urgent review of present commercial requirements for the homogeneity of seed varieties is called for.
- Breeding for food q uality: The holistic quality of food, including its taste and nutritional value, should be the dominant concern for further enhancing, preserving and developing seeds of the future.
- Women are the protagonists of biodiversity: Globally, women represent the majority of the agricultural work force and are the present and traditional custodians of seed security, diversity and quality. Women are also the prime depositaries and disseminators of knowledge about the quality and methods of processing food. As such their central role in safeguarding biodiversity and in conserving, exchanging and reproducing seeds in post-industrial agriculture must be supported and enhanced.
Part Four LIVING ALTERNATIVES – SEEDS OF HOPE
It is in the nature of seeds to carry the expression of hope. They bring to mind a cornucopia of harvest. Large numbers of individuals, initiatives and traditional food communities all over the world have long been engaged in safeguarding seed. Despite the present alarming scenario of monocultures and corporate monopolies on seed, many encouraging initiatives have sprung up to counter the threat to seed imposed by industrial agriculture. The principles on which this manifesto is based have evolved from the initiatives and actions of diverse groups and movements across the world. The following are some such examples.
- A mushrooming of Seed Banks to preserve ex-situ and cultivate in-situ seed and plant diversity is taking place within seed communities. Women have played a pivotal role in safe-guarding the heritage of seed and are set to continue to do so in increasing numbers. Movements such as Seeds of Survival in Ethiopia and Navdanya in India have evolved new models of saving seeds and enhancing food security and ecological security of farmersʼ communities.
- Seed saving initiatives and seed exchange platforms are taking on an increasingly important role. Large numbers of individuals are creating gardens with the express aim of growing their own food and have the potential to play an important role in seed saving and exchange.
- Individual communities committed to the protection of and reversing the huge losses in seeds and breeds varieties are rallying their forces. One such example are the ʻpresidiaʼ projects (biodiversity protection) of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity that have sprung up in all regions of the world.
- Targeted plant breeding projects adopting seeds to the needs of organic and ecological agriculture are fast increasing.
- Alliances and networks of civil society around seed are forming at regional, national and international levels. This includes networks like Etc and Grain, and political pressure initiatives like Save our Seeds as well as farmer rights groups.
Movements such as the “No Patents on Life” in Europe and movements to create patent free zones (Living Democracy / Jaiv Panchayat) and non-cooperation with patents on seeds (Bija Satyagraha) in India, the seed sovereignty movement of native American Tribes in North America and international food sovereignty movement in Africa are evolving from the group up to defend the Freedom of Seed.
- Parallel to civil society activities are laws and legal protection initiatives that are establishing GMO free zones on a large scale and protecting diversity of seed. The Region of Tuscanyʼs Law on Seed is a good example of how local and regional governments can take responsible and concerted action to protect seed diversity.
- The fast growing direct relationships between producers and consumers such as the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) networks are another vibrant step in the movement towards conserving and maintaining seed and plant varieties.
- International agreements such as the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and its Article 9 on Farmersʼ Rights, as well as the Convention on Biological Diversity are instruments which have the potential to be evoked in countering the aggressive control and suicide oriented policies of large multinational corporations. This potential needs to be strengthened.
Demands to review Act 27.3(b) of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement of WTO, and to stop the patents on life, patents on seeds and biopiracy of farmersʼ varieties and traditional knowledge, continue to be made by Third World governments. The future evolution of humanity goes hand in hand with the future and free evolution of our seeds. What is embedded in and has been practiced in peasant cultures from time immemorial needs the utmost support from the public and private sector if our right to chose and to live healthy, safe and culturally diverse lives is to prevail.
The future of the Seed carries within it the future of humanity.