Seeds

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.

Red alert! GMO avalanche in Mexico

Mexico is the world centre of origin and diversification of maize, one of four crucial food crops in world agriculture. Now the future of this crop is being put at grave risk by the impending approval of commercial planting of genetically engineered (GE) maize on 2.4 million ha in Mexico. What is being prepared is nothing less than a frontal attack on a crop that is vital to the survival of humanity and on the peoples who have stewarded it for millennia. This report discusses the situation and it connections to ongoing struggles in Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay.

Mexico is the world centre of origin and diversification of maize, one of four crucial food crops in world agriculture. Now the future of this crop is being put at grave risk by the impending approval of commercial planting of genetically engineered (GE) maize on 2.4 million ha in Mexico. What is being prepared is nothing less than a frontal attack on a crop that is vital to the survival of humanity and on the peoples who have stewarded it for millennia. This report discusses the situation and it connections to ongoing struggles in Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay.

GM in the public eye in Asia

Public is meant to be for people. But, as in evident with Bt crop research in Asia, “public” agricultural research is becoming less about the needs of ordinary people and small farmers and more about scientific control and corporate interests. The recent controversy around Bt brinjal/eggplant in parts of South and South-east Asia, together with the Bt rice research in China's public sector, show that governments and corporations, be they in competition or co-operation, are pushing the same GM crops into Asia's farms and food supply. This is decisively changing the perception of public agricultural research. People are realising that their public agricultural universities and national research institutes may not really be on their side.

Public is meant to be for people. But, as in evident with Bt crop research in Asia, “public” agricultural research is becoming less about the needs of ordinary people and small farmers and more about scientific control and corporate interests. The recent controversy around Bt brinjal/eggplant in parts of South and South-east Asia, together with the Bt rice research in China's public sector, show that governments and corporations, be they in competition or co-operation, are pushing the same GM crops into Asia's farms and food supply. This is decisively changing the perception of public agricultural research. People are realising that their public agricultural universities and national research institutes may not really be on their side.

The struggle against IPR in the Andes

In Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, initiatives have been taken recently that raise hopes that mechanisms might be created to stop the further privatisation of knowledge and life. So far, progress has been disappointing, with fundamental problems remaining unsolved. Once again, it is up to local people to defend knowledge and biodiveristy against destruction and privatisation.

In Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, initiatives have been taken recently that raise hopes that mechanisms might be created to stop the further privatisation of knowledge and life. So far, progress has been disappointing, with fundamental problems remaining unsolved. Once again, it is up to local people to defend knowledge and biodiveristy against destruction and privatisation.

Whose harvest? The politics of organic seed certification

Millions of farmers around the world practice organic agriculture and over a billion people get most of their food from these farms. Currently only a small portion of what they produce is labeled as certified organic, but the global market for such foods is growing. While some believe that certification is needed to create market opportunities for small farmers others fear that existing systems are doing the reverse -- setting the stage for agribusiness to take over. Now these tensions are coming to a head with seeds. Today, new regulations governing seeds in organic farming, more attuned to the needs of seed corporations than seed savers, are popping up everywhere, with potentially devastating consequences for farmer seed systems. This Briefing provides the first global overview of regulations concerning seeds in organic farming and assesses what such regulations mean to the future of organic farming and the millions of farmers who sustain it.

Millions of farmers around the world practice organic agriculture and over a billion people get most of their food from these farms. Currently only a small portion of what they produce is labeled as certified organic, but the global market for such foods is growing. While some believe that certification is needed to create market opportunities for small farmers others fear that existing systems are doing the reverse -- setting the stage for agribusiness to take over. Now these tensions are coming to a head with seeds. Today, new regulations governing seeds in organic farming, more attuned to the needs of seed corporations than seed savers, are popping up everywhere, with potentially devastating consequences for farmer seed systems. This Briefing provides the first global overview of regulations concerning seeds in organic farming and assesses what such regulations mean to the future of organic farming and the millions of farmers who sustain it.

A new Green Revolution for Africa?

For some time now, there's been talk of a new Green Revolution for Africa – because "Africa missed the first Green Revolution" or because "the first Green Revolution missed Africa". Now a new project, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), is trying to put the concept into operation. This paper aims to describe what a Green Revolution really signifies, why such projects haven't worked before and why AGRA won't work either, in order to help people trying to take positions at the local, national and regional levels.

For some time now, there's been talk of a new Green Revolution for Africa – because "Africa missed the first Green Revolution" or because "the first Green Revolution missed Africa". Now a new project, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), is trying to put the concept into operation. This paper aims to describe what a Green Revolution really signifies, why such projects haven't worked before and why AGRA won't work either, in order to help people trying to take positions at the local, national and regional levels.

Japan digs its claws into biodiversity through FTAs

Japan is increasingly using free trade agreements (FTAs) to tighten corporate control over seeds and other forms of biodiversity that are crucial to food, agriculture and medicine. Two such deals, sealed this month with the Chilean and Indonesian governments, put Japan in the big league of nations using bilateral trade deals to make seed-saving on the farm a thing of the past.

Japan is increasingly using free trade agreements (FTAs) to tighten corporate control over seeds and other forms of biodiversity that are crucial to food, agriculture and medicine. Two such deals, sealed this month with the Chilean and Indonesian governments, put Japan in the big league of nations using bilateral trade deals to make seed-saving on the farm a thing of the past.

The end of farm-saved seed? Industry's wish list for the next revision of UPOV

The big players in the world seed industry are grumbling about loopholes in the plant variety protection system, which was the alternative to patenting that they set up in the 1960s. The Europeans want to get rid of farmers’ limited entitlement to save seed. The Americans want to restrict the exemption by which breeders have the free use of each other’s commercial varieties for research purposes. In both cases, the point is to reduce competition and boost profits. In the short term, the victims will be farmers, who will probably end up paying the seed giants an additional US$7 billion each year. But in the long run, we will all lose from the growing corporate stranglehold over our food systems. This briefing traces the recent discussions within the seed industry and explores what will happen if a plant variety right becomes virtually indistinguishable from a patent.

The big players in the world seed industry are grumbling about loopholes in the plant variety protection system, which was the alternative to patenting that they set up in the 1960s. The Europeans want to get rid of farmers’ limited entitlement to save seed. The Americans want to restrict the exemption by which breeders have the free use of each other’s commercial varieties for research purposes. In both cases, the point is to reduce competition and boost profits. In the short term, the victims will be farmers, who will probably end up paying the seed giants an additional US$7 billion each year. But in the long run, we will all lose from the growing corporate stranglehold over our food systems. This briefing traces the recent discussions within the seed industry and explores what will happen if a plant variety right becomes virtually indistinguishable from a patent.

1996: THE YEAR OF AGRICULTURAL BIODIVERSITY?

As a number of important internacional negotiations on agricultural biodiversity get underway, there is a political challenge to achieve a central position for the role and contribution of Third World countries and resource-poor farmers in the management of plant genetic resources.

As a number of important internacional negotiations on agricultural biodiversity get underway, there is a political challenge to achieve a central position for the role and contribution of Third World countries and resource-poor farmers in the management of plant genetic resources.