In a now iconic Time magazine cover back in 2000, Golden Rice was hailed as the “rice that could save millions.” The optimistic prediction of commercialising the genetically-modified (GM) rice in the early 2000s turned out to be a dud: two decades hence and the Golden Rice has yet to fulfill its messianic promise of solving Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) among kids in poor countries.
The 'seeds issue' was what got GRAIN started almost 30 years ago, and it is still a central area of work for us. The biodiversity in farmers' fields is eroding at alarming rates, while the corporate seed sector is reaching unprecedented levels of control through the push for hybrids, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and concentration. Across the world, governments are promoting or allowing restrictive seed and intellectual property laws that grant exclusive power to the corporate sector while limiting the possibilities of small farmers to save, exchange and further develop their own varieties. But equally all over the world, social movements are sprouting up and growing to challenge these developments and establish networks to conserve and use local materials. This programme area allows GRAIN to be part of this movement and contribute with research and information work, as well as capacity and movement building support.
The picture often painted for us is that we need corporate seeds to feed the world: they are alleged to be more efficient, productive and predictable. Locally developed farmer varieties are painted as backwards, less-productive and disease-ridden. But those of us with our feet on the ground know that this is not the reality in Africa. Just to start with a sobering fact: the vast bulk of food produced on the continent comes from homegrown farmers’ seeds (some studies put the figure at 80%). If these seeds are so “backward,” what moves farmers to keep preserving and planting them? What benefits do they derive from them? What challenges do they encounter in this effort? How must they be supported so that they can do their work more effectively?
AFSA and GRAIN decided to find out. We work with numerous partner organisations across the continent, many of them involved in local seed diversity activities. AFSA along with many other civil society organisations (CSO) on the continent have adopted the term farmer-managed seed systems (FMSS) to acknowledge certain practices that have been dismissed as “informal” by some.
An analysis on the role of small-scale farmers in saving Africa’s seed diversity has been compiled and co-published today by GRAIN, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) together with research partners from Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
"Seeds in resistance" is an animation developed in connection with the documentary "Seeds: commons or corporate property?", produced in 2017 by a collective of Latin American organisations from all across the continent that are working to defend native seeds as the basis of peoples' food sovereignty.
In August 2017, a Mexican research team composed of members from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) published a study showing the presence of transgenes and the herbicide glyphosate in processed foods and tortillas made from industrial maize (corn) throughout Mexico.
Stop Golden Rice! Network and GRAIN | 22 February 2018 | Seeds
The recent release of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) approval report of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) application for a Golden Rice ‘safety stamp’ and trade liability clearance have garnered negative reactions and widespread critique.
The Latin American Seeds Collective presents the documentary "Seeds: commons or corporate property?"
ANAFAE, REDSAG, Red de Biodiversidad, Grupo Semillas, Acción Ecológica, Articulación Nacional de Agroecología, Acción por la Biodiversidad and GRAIN | 29 January 2018 | Other publications, Seeds, Videos
Jointly produced by eight Latin American organisations and edited by Radio Mundo Real, the documentary "Seeds: commons or corporate property?" draws on the experiences and struggles of social movements for the defence of indigenous and native seeds in Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, Colombia, and Guatemala.
The autonomy of African states on seed policy is limited by trade deals, such as free trade agreements or investment treaties, signed by States. Certainly, in principle, each country has sovereignty to sign or not sign these agreements. But they are very often forced to conclude them for financial, geopolitical, security or other reasons. GRAIN published a baseline study of these agreements, either signed or in the process of being negotiated, in June 2016 (see “Trade agreements that privatise biodiversity outside the WTO, Annex 1”). Today, what is the situation?
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) has just published its annual report, which confirms that the Southern Cone of Latin America is the region of the world producing the largest quantity of GMOs and having the largest land area under a single monoculture (over 54 million hectares of GM soy in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and southern Bolivia).
Skillful selection and nurturing of the seeds best suited to a particular location are at the heart of peasant farming and agroforestry systems. The resulting agrobiodiversity of hundreds of thousands of crop varieties and animal races found in peasants’ fields around the globe provides the corner stone of the world’s food system. Peasant farmers and the local varieties that they developed are still feeding the majority of us. By contrast, industrial agriculture dominated by a small number of transnational corporations has drastically reduced the agrobiodiversity of crop varieties grown. It has also encroached rapidly on the land that peasant farmers rely on to produce food and on peasants’ access to the diversity of seeds which forms the basis of peasant farming and agroforesty systems.