Saving seeds in this day and age?
Activist Vandana Shiva: ‘seed sovereignty is food sovereignty’
Seed is the first link in the food chain. It is also the first link in addressing hunger and malnutrition. Seed sovereignty is food sovereignty.
Hunger and malnutrition are intimately linked to the erosion of diversity of seed, erosion of the nutritive quality of seed – and therefore of food – and the erosion of farmers’ control over seed.
We have been made to believe that industrial monocultures based on industrially bred seed are necessary to remove hunger.
This is not true.
Firstly, it is not monocultures but bio-diverse systems that produce more food and nutrition per acre, as shown in Navdanya’s report Health per Acre.
Secondly, by privileging uniformity, industrial breeding drives out nutrition and quality from food. That is why food is now so tasteless. It is nutritionally empty mass. Farmer-bred varieties of wheat have much higher levels of protein, and do not contribute to gluten allergies. Farmer-bred rice has a low glycemic index.
Thirdly, industrial breeding is based on marketing seeds that respond to chemicals. Farmers get trapped in debt to buy costly seeds and chemicals. They sell what they grow to pay the debt, and go hungry themselves. That is why half of the hungry in the world are farmers.
Fourthly, patents and intellectual property rights on seeds add royalty costs, and hence deepen the debt burden. In India more than 280,000 indebted farmers have committed suicide since seed monopolies were established after 1995.
Industrial agriculture has reduced food to a commodity. Commodities do not feed people, they feed profits. Most corn and soya goes to drive cars or as inputs to factory farms. It does not go to feed the hungry. According to FAO, more 72 percent of food in developing countries comes from small farms.
To address hunger and malnutrition we must begin with seed.
Saving seeds is an ecological imperative. Without biodiversity of plants, we cannot practice agro-ecology and sustainable agriculture.
Saving seeds is a food security imperative. We need to shift from the destructive obsession with uniformity and monocultures to the recognition of the value of diversity, to balance in nature, and healthy and balanced diets.
Saving seeds is a democratic imperative. If farmers cannot exercise seed sovereignty, they cannot exercise food sovereignty. But it is not just the food sovereignty of farmers that is dependent on seed freedom and seed sovereignty. The food freedom of eaters is also dependent on seed freedom.
Seed freedom is the first freedom.
That is why I started Navdanya in 1987. We have helped set up more than 110 community seed banks. These community seed banks have helped end the vicious cycle of debt. They have contributed to rejuvenation after climate disasters such as the Orissa Supercyclone in 1999, and the draught of 2009.
That is why we have globally started the seed freedom campaign.