Members of international peasant advocacy group La Via Campesina published an article, “Seeds and Peasant Autonomy,” which outlines and proposes solutions to the burden peasants around the world face in growing successful and diverse crops within the current seed market. The article’s authors define peasants as “all men and women who produce food,” who are “the main contributors to biodiversity.”
Much of the positive impact local food producers can make in preserving crop biodiversity is being squashed by current international policies that control the seeds farmers use, according to article authors Guy Kastler, Antonio Onorati, and Bob Brac. “The industrial seed system works by banning the collective rights of farmers to use, exchange, sell and protect their seeds, and by confiscating and subsequently eradicating traditional seeds to the benefit of new industrial varieties controlled by Plant Breeders’ Rights, to which one or more patents are often added.”
The article calls for the liberation of seed use rights, arguing, “peasants’ seed independence and the food sovereignty and self-sufficiency of our communities are inalienable rights and not commercial niches. Exchanges between farmers are not part of a market place and should not be subject to trade inspections,” say the authors. Instead, they advocate prioritizing the application of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). “Farmers’ rights, as defined in the ITPGRFA, are part of human rights upheld by the UN and arise directly from the right to food.”
The publication lays out goals for a just seed system for peasants. These include protection of seeds as part of common cultural heritages, and recognition of peasants’ rights to exchange and use their seeds free of intellectual property rights or genetic manipulation. The article also urges the involvement of peasants and their representative organizations in policy formation and implementation.