La Via Campesina’s Message to the Seed Treaty: Farmers in Resistance to Defend their Right to Peasant Seeds

Press Release – La Via Campesina

From 14-18 March 2011, La Via Campesina delegates from Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, France, Indonesia, India, Mexico, Madagascar, and South Korea are participating in the Fourth Regular Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, also known as the Seed Treaty. We are here to present the voice of peasant seed producers around the world.

The Treaty has accomplished most of its mission to facilitate the industry’s access to seeds. But to date it has not implemented Farmers’ Rights and only proposes an illusory financing through ‘benefit sharing’, a fund made up from the proceeds of patents issuing from genetic resources facilitated by the Treaty. However we refuse this ‘benefit sharing’, as we do not recognize the industry’s continued theft and privatization of our seeds. 

During the past week, we have met in Bali to evaluate among our organizations the situation of farmers on the issue of seeds and to strengthen our own seed networks. Our members shared experiences showing that industrial seeds are causing them serious harm, including the criminalization of those farmers who contribute to the preservation of cultivated diversity by carrying out farmers’ selection. The industrial property rights that are recognized by the Treaty in accordance with WTO intellectual property rules have seriously penalized farmers who inadvertently use patented seeds. But patents are not the only problem; within the UPOV system farmers have to pay royalties each time they reuse commercial seeds on their farm.

The predominance of industrial seeds has led to many other problems that affect the lives, environment and health of farmers. Industrial seeds are a bred in such a way that they cannot grow without chemical inputs. Their diversity has been made homogenous thus more susceptible to pests and unable to adapt to different environments and our changing climate. These seeds also decrease global food diversification.

In this process, thousands of local varieties have been lost, while farmers have become dependent on industrial seeds and inputs. “There has been a rapid concentration in the seed industry and today, the top three seed companies control 53 per cent of global commercial seed sales,” said Titis Priyowidodo, an Indonesian representative of La Via Campesina, as he addressed the Governing Body this morning. “While all 127 signatory states actively recognize breeders’ rights and have gone a long way to facilitate the industry’s access to seeds, they have done nothing to implement the Farmers’ Rights that they ratified,” later commented Basawareddy, a representative of the Karnataka Farmers’ Union of India.

For these reasons, La Via Campesina, which represents 150 farmers’ organizations in 70 different countries, insists that Treaty states immediately implement Farmers Rights. This should be done both in terms of legislation as well as through the direct financing of in situ reproduction in farmers’ fields under the direct control of farmers’ organizations. We also demand access to all the seed collections in the multilateral system, as these collections hold the very seeds that have been taken from our fields.

If states do not rectify this situation, we will stop collaborating with the Treaty. One way or the other, we will continue to develop, breed, and exchange our local seeds for the future of humanity and of our planet.