Challenge for Europe

Crop Biodiversity Converted into Dumps of Synthetic Genes!

The food supply of future generations is threatened by the erosion of crop biodiversity. This erosion is already eating into the nutritional quality of our foods. In one half-century, certain monolithic industrial crop breeds on vast territories have replaced the great diversity of farm-saved seeds. Our biodiversity is now locked in gene banks where it escapes only to serve as the raw material of industrial breeds. The substitution with collections of refrigerated grains is already underway as the computer digitization of their gene sequences heralds a future of seeds entirely reconstructed by synthetic genes. Boosted by patents and Plant Variety Certificates (PVC) on genetic characteristics, industrial research has already abandoned the first generation of GMO pesticides to invest all their capital in the mastery of “bits, atoms, neurons and genes” (BANG). If nobody stops this mechanical process, the industry will irreversibly replace real biodiversity with the artificial world of synthetic biology sprung from virtual digital sequences in computers.

The work of farmers and agro-ecology

Industry cannot redeploy biodiversity in the fields. Only the farmers can do this work by the means that they alone have: By going back to the varieties that have not been transformed by industrial breeding that are still in their fields or that are accessible in gene banks, by allowing them to evolve and diversify and by breeding for those adapted to their harvest conditions. It is feasible today because modern agro-ecological techniques allow us to achieve in a few years, with more jobs for farmers and less chemical pesticides and fertilizers, agronomic performances equivalent to those of industrial varieties.

For an Effective Application of the ITPRFA

In ratifying the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPRFA), the European Union recognized “the enormous contribution that the local and indigenous communities and farmers of all regions of the world, particularly those in the centres of origin and crop diversity, have made and will continue to make for the conservation and development of plant genetic resources which constitute the basis of food and agriculture production throughout the world.” They also recognized “rights that farmers have to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed.” The treaty places the application of these rights under the responsibility of states.

In its catalogue of directives, the European Union permits the exchange or sale of seeds not belonging to a variety listed in the catalogue on the condition that it is “not aimed at the commercial exploitation of the variety.” This permits the seed industry to exchange and sell, without any control, plant genetic resources and varieties that are not listed in order to carry out its work of saving, researching, or breeding. This system becomes absurd once we apply it to farmers. In effect, the farmers can not contribute to the conservation and the development of plant genetic resources without making a commercial use because it is commercial exploitation of their harvests that makes their living!

In banning the exchange and sale of these resources for commercial exploitation, the directives catalogue bans all contributions by farmers to their conservation and development. In order to honour its signature to the ITPRFA, the EU needs to change its regulations on this point.

We Ask for….

Extension of the derogation that permits sale of seeds not listed in the catalogue for non-commercial exploitation of seed varieties to exchange and sales by the very farmers who produced them; these seeds need to be reproducible and come from selection and multiplication techniques accessible to the end user;

Impose, as the only constraints on exchange and sale, documentation of the origin of the variety, of the methods of selection and multiplication, and respect for health constraints concerning contagious diseases.

Author :