FREEDOM FOR SEEDS
Dear Seed keepers and seed warriors,
On behalf of Navdanya, I write to invite you to become part of a Global
Citizens Alliance for Seed Freedom – the start of a global campaign to alert
citizens and governments around the world on how precarious our seed supply
has become – and as a consequence how precarious our food security has
We started Navdanya 25 years ago to protect our seed diversity and farmer’s
rights to save, breed, and exchange seed freely, in the context of the emerging
threats of the TRIPS Agreement (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights
Agreement) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which opened the door
to the introduction of GMOS, patents on seed and the collection of royalties.
A Monsanto representative later stated “In drafting these agreements we were
the patient, diagnostician, physician all in one”. Corporations defined a
problem – and for them the problem was farmers saving seed. They offered a
solution, and the solution was the introduction of patents and intellectual
property rights on seed, making it illegal for farmers to save their seed.
Seed as a common good became a commodity of private seed companies,
traded on the open market.
Today, the threat is greater. Consider the following:
- The last twenty years have seen a very rapid erosion of seed diversity and
seed sovereignty, and the rapid concentration of control over seed by a very
small number of giant corporations
- Acreage under GM corn, soya, canola, cotton has increased dramatically.
- Besides displacing and destroying diversity, patented GMO seeds are also
undermining seed sovereignty, the rights of farmers to grow their own seeds
and to save and exchange seed.
- In countries across the world, including in India, new seed laws are being
introduced which enforce compulsory registration of seed, thus making it
impossible for small farmers to grow their own diversity, and forcing them
into dependency on giant seed corporations.
- genetic contamination is spreading – India has lost the cotton seeds because
of contamination from Bt. Cotton and Mexico, the historical cradle of corn,
has lost eighty percent of its corn varieties and these are but two instances of
loss of local and national seed heritage.
- After contamination, Biotech Seed Corporations sue farmers with patent
infringement cases. More than 80 groups came together recently in the US
and filed a case to prevent Monsanto from suing farmers whose seed had
- As farmer’s seed supply is eroded, and farmers become dependent on
patented GMO seed, the result is indebtedness. Debt created by Bt. Cotton
in India has pushed farmers to suicide.
- India has signed a U.S. /India knowledge Initiative in Agriculture, with a
representative of Monsanto on the Board. States are being pressurized to
sign agreements with Monsanto. An example is the Monsanto Rajasthan
memorandum of understanding (MOU) under which Monsanto would
obtain intellectual property rights (IPRs) on all genetic resources as well as
research on seed carried out under the MOU. It was only after a campaign
led by Navdanya and a “Monsanto Quit India” Bija Yatra that the
government of Rajasthan cancelled the MOU.
- Pressure by Monsanto on the US Government and the joint pressure of both
on governments across the world is a major threat to the future of seed and
the future of food.
- Wikileaks exposed the US government’s intentions to proliferate the use of
GMOs in Africa and Pakistan. Pressure to use GMOs imposed by US
government representatives is a direct effort to support giant biotech
business and to expand their markets.
These trends demonstrate a total control over the seed supply and a
destruction of the very foundation of agriculture. We are witnessing a
SEED EMERGENCYat a global level.
The disappearance of our biodiversity and of our seed sovereignty is creating a
major crisis for agriculture and food security around the world. We must act
before it is too late.
Seeds are the first link in the food chain and the repository of life’s future
evolution. As such, it is our inherent duty and responsibility to protect them
and to pass them on to future generations. The growing of seed and the free
exchange of seed among farmers has been the basis to maintaining
biodiversity and our food security.
I am sure you will sense the emergency as deeply as I do, and feel the need to
join forces to reclaim our seed and to protect our Seed Diversity and Seed
Let us collectively make 2012 the year to “Save our Seeds” and “Reclaim our
Seeds as a Commons” – from privatization through patents, from compulsory
registration laws, from seed monopolies, from genetic erosion and
Let us plan common strategies and common actions so that the voices of the
99% in issues related to seed become louder than the bullying by Monsanto
and the other four Agricultural Seed- Biotech Giants, who are determined to
control the world’s food systems by stealing our seed and our freedoms.
On behalf of Navdanya, I invite you to contribute to a “Global Report on the
Seed Emergency” to wake people up to how great is the risk to our seed
supply. Because seed is the first link in the food chain, the seed emergency
will lead to a food emergency. We must act before it is too late.
In the report on Seed Freedom and Seed Sovereignty we want to focus on:
1. The erosion of seed diversity and disappearance of open pollinated
2. The threat to farmers seed sovereignty from patent and seed law and
3. The threat to public breeding
4. The corporate concentration over the seed supply
5. The increasing costs of seed because of royalties
6. The influence of corporations over government research, breeding and
7. People’s initiatives for seed conservation and reclaiming seed as
Please send your ideas, your hopes, your dreams so we build a strong
movement “Occupy the Seed”.
I look forward to your positive response to this proposal. Some of you have
fought legal battles against Monsanto, some of you are building movements to
reclaim our Seed Sovereignty and Seed Freedom. All these contributions are
vital. We must create better synergy among the diverse strands of our
movement. Let us inform each other across the world about what you have
done to protect the seed and seed freedom, what you have witnessed in terms
of threats, what you anticipate if the seed giants continue their agenda of
owning and monopolizing seed – the first link in the food chain – and what you
hope we can collectively achieve to “Reclaim the Seed as Commons”.
We hope you can write 10 to 15 pages, if possible with photographs, about
your ideas and experience with the seed and send your report by July 2012, so
that we can launch it together during the fortnight for seed freedom beginning
with 2 October, Gandhi’s birth anniversary, to 16th October 2012 , World
Food Day, to declare “No Food Sovereignty without Seed Sovereignty”.
I look forward to joining forces with you to make 2012 the year of the
Liberation of the Seed and to help ensure a sustainable and just future for
generations to come.
Two documents that provide an in-depth understanding of the seed issue are
1. The Manifesto on the Future of Seeds (2004), available in several languages
(www.navdanyainternational.it.) Its principles were the basis to the Regional
Law of Tuscany on Seed heritage that same year.
2. “The GMO Emperor has no Clothes: false promises, failed technologies” –
published by Navdanya International last year together with an alliance of
citizens movements (see* below) (www.navdanyainternational.it). The report
made evident the severe threat to seed from erosion, pollution and privatization.
Contributing organizations: Centre for Safety (CFS), USA; Centre of Studies for Rural
Change in Mexico (CECCAM); Network for a GE Free Latin America (RALLT), Ecuador;
Amigos della Tiera Uruguay (REDES); Uruguay Sustenable, Conservation Land Trust,
Patagonia; Nadvanya International; Confederation Paysanne, Via Campensia, France;
Save our Seeds (SOS), Germany; Italian Association for Organic Agriculture (AIAB), Italy;
Blueridge Institute, Switzerland; International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside
(ICPPC) Poland; World Peace Culture Fund Genetic Resources Conservation, Russia;
African Biodiversity Network (ABN); Friends of the Earth, Africa; Gaia Foundation, UK;
Navdanya, India; NO! GMO Campaign, Japan; Gene Ethics, Australia; Madge, Australia.
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