As a consequence, abrupt and profound eco-systematic planetary changes can be foreseen within the present century as a consequence of human activity.
Todayʼs industrial productivity strategies have not only given rise to most of the challenges we face today, but they are destroying the very diversity that is the only proven strategy of living beings to cope with abrupt and uncertain change. While plants, animals and micro-organisms make use of their genetic variability, humans depend on their cultural variability and their inventive capacity to adapt to changes in the environment around them in order to obtain food from plants and animals adapted to diverse local ecosystems. These destructive industrial agricultural practices, together with wars and expulsion, are reducing seed diversity more dramatically than ever before1. The disappearance of local seeds has gone hand in hand with the disappearance of small farmers and local food cultures. So has the local knowledge about the use of cultivated and wild plant varieties in their different ecological and cultural habitats.
With the extinction and reduction of languages and cultures the indigenous names and distinctions of thousands of plants have been lost, including the experiences and traditions of their cultivation. This not least also has been the result of the biased usage of the unexpected advances and successes in all fields of biology, particularly genetics and molecular biology. Technologies derived from now obsolete interpretations of biological concepts have been developed and advertised as the only way to overcome worldwide problems like famine and illness and are used as tools for economic and political control. Civilizations rose and fell with new agricultural technologies.
The ability to produce more food than needed by those working in the fields has been key to the development of progressively sophisticated division of labour practices. Traditionally the selection, preservation and maintenance, as well as the wise development and passing on of seed stock has been, and is still today, the domain of women in most rural communities.
Preserving seed for the next season has been a fundamental rule of survival in human history. Systems of rights and responsibilities must be put in place which recognize both the collective rights of local communities as well as the right of seed sovereignty of farmers, and the mutual interdependence between diverse cultures and countries.
I a. The bias of industrial agriculture and seed breeding
Industrial agriculture has led to severe erosion of the biological diversity of seeds and crops and of breeds of livestock. The spread of modern, commercial agriculture has been identified as the chief contemporary cause of the loss of genetic diversity2, and the replacement of local varieties as the most important cause of genetic erosion3. Industrial agriculture, for which the lionʼs share of commercially traded seeds is produced today, pursues a dogma to change the production process in a way that conflicts with basic rules of seed production and reproduction.