Sowing the Future – Harvesting Diversity!

5th Meeting of the European Seed Network ‘Let’s liberate diversity!’

Volkshaus, Graz, Austria, 25-27 March 2010

The year 2010 will be decisive in the debate about intellectual property rights concerning seeds. The EU wants to pass seed legislation that is uniform throughout Europe. In the future, will just industrial varieties be available on the seed market while regional and farmers varieties will be found only in museums and show gardens? All signs indicate that seed corporations are using the revision of the seed law to expand their power further. The EU directive on conservation varieties and non-industrial varieties complicates or forbids the propagation of old varieties due to geographic and quantitative restrictions.


In the last few years, seed initiatives in many European countries have teamed up and organized across borders under the banner of “Let’s liberate diversity!”. They are defending farmers’ rights to sow seeds from their own harvest, to breed them and to pass them on. European seed initiatives from ten countries have prepared counterproposals and want to vote on them together in Graz as well as make connections in the European-wide network of resistance.

This year’s meeting is taking place in Austria in order to strengthen cooperation with Eastern European countries, yet everyone who is interested in the subject and who would like to become active is invited.

The 5th meeting will be hosted by four Austrian associations: Arche Noah, ÖBV – Via Campesina Austria, Longo maï and MaiMun. Simultaneous translation will be available in German, English, French and Spanish. On Friday, 26 March 2010, we are organizing a Market of Diversity with a seed exchange, presentations, exhibitions, diverse products for sale, workshops, music and organic food. The topic of seeds will be publicized through “Sowing the future” actions that will make effective use of the media.


Wednesday, 24th March: Welcome and dinner for those who arrive early.

Thursday, 25th March:

8:00 Check-in

9:30 Welcome by the Austrian organisation committee

10:00 Beate Koller and Florian Walter introduce Arche Noah and the topics of the conference.

10:30 – 13:00 World café: Introductions and getting acquainted, expectations, visions

13:00 Lunch

14:30 – 17:00 Workshops (workshop leader in italics)

Workshop 1 Revision of the EU-seed legislation framework: Exchange of experiences concerning the European directive on conservation varieties, cultivation bans, the common positioning paper of the network. What actions will we take towards national and European authorities? The FAO? The international contract ITPGR-FA? (Guy Kastler, RSP, F)

Workshop 2 Seeds in eastern Europe: Reports from Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, … How is the crop diversity that still exists threatened? Where is farm seed being used and who is defending it? (Csilla Kiss, Protect the Future, H)

Workshop 3 Seeds and migration. Diversity for everyone? Immigrants and refugees were often able to preserve their favourite varieties to a new land. Without them, our everyday meals would be monotonous and bland. Come and bring experiences, examples and ideas about how we can reproduce seeds and open-mindedness collectively. (Florian Walter, Kathrin Schickengruber, A)

17:00  Break

17:30 – 18:30 Feedback from the workshops and discussion in plenum

19:00  Dinner

Friday, 26th March

9:00 Plenum: Practical information, program of the day, workshop topics

9:15 – 11:30: Workshops

Workshop 4 Actions and campaigns: What is being done in different countries as a reaction to the revision of the European seed legislation? What are we doing together? The campaign “Sowing future – harvesting diversity” will be introduced. (Jürgen Holzapfel, European Civic Forum, D)

Workshop 5 Patent laws and alternatives: Seed patents and conservation of varieties are increasingly restricting farmers’ rights and breeders’ work. In this workshop, we will provide information about current patent rights cases and point out alternatives (Eva Gelinsky, IG-Saatgut, Pro Specie Rara, CH; Gebhard Rossmanith, Bingenheimer Saatgut AG, D)

Workshop 6 Livestock breeding: Forced vaccinations, maximum productivity and the limitation to only a few selection criteria and breeds create problems for livestock breeders. How do we want to breed? How can we create a European network of resistance? (Antoine de Ruffray, Longo maï, F)

Workshop 7 Agriculture: Monocultures, the use of large amounts of chemicals and specialisation in only a few industrial varieties and breeds are all destroying natural and cultivated diversity. Which agricultural forms of production preserve biodiversity? (ÖBV-Via Campesina Austria)

11:30 Break

12:00 Feedback from the workshops and discussion in plenum

13:00 Compagnie MaiMun: Street theatre on the subject of seeds

Lunch at the Market of Diversity

Beginning at 10 am: Market of Diversity and public program in “Augarten”: seed exchange, plants from seed savers and farmers, local food, exhibits, additional workshops and information.

Saturday, 27th March

9:00  Closing plenary: How will we carry on? The structure of the European network, the location of the next meeting, evaluations, discussion.

13:00  Lunch

  1. 14:30  Excursion to the organic farm of Mr. Scharler, seed producer and member of Arche Noah.

Please join us for dinner afterwards at the “Haus am Bach”.

For more information:

If you want to participate, please contact: