Declaration of the Forum of Seeds and Food Sovereignty at Risk
We, representatives of campesino, indigenous, montubios,
Afro-descendents and social organizations, after analyzing the situation facing agriculture in relation to seeds, and debates that are generating in regard to the new seed law promoted by the National Assembly of Ecuador , we declare the following :
1. Seed is a common good that belongs to mankind. It can not can be an object of appropriation on the part of private interests, nor on the part of the State. Similar to the air, the Sun, or the smile of our children, our seeds belong equally to every human being on the planet, and not can be treated as a resource strategic from any nation or interest in particular. Access to seed is a basic human right, and includes the right to acquire, adapt, enhance, multiply, exchange, give away and sell the seeds. And it also extends by rational reasoning: food sovereignty today depends on this right and the power of the future of our species.
2. We are concerned to see that other countries have implemented laws that limit this law, which impose mandatory registration to all seed and thus prevent their freedom of movement and population management. These laws are derived from the agreements of the UPOV 91, International Convention governing the rights of vegetable breeders, and other international regulations which oblige signatory countries to create national systems of control of seeds, with catalogs filled with technical requirements where in seed saving practice include mainly uniform, commercially hybridized seed
and GM, while the remainder is excluded. These laws benefit the
large capital companies, to the detriment of the interests of the population. We are observing the appropriation of nature's reproductive capacity by way
of private capital, with the blessing and facilitation of those States.
We remind you that Ecuador is not signatory to the UPOV 91 Treaty, and that conversely our Constitution explicitly contradicts the Treaty and
defend food sovereignty and the rights of the population on the access to the seed. The Article 281, literal 6, tells us that it is the responsibility of the State: "to promote the preservation and recovery of agro-biodiversity and the
ancestral knowledge linked to it; as well as the use, conservation and free exchange of seeds."
3. The Ecuadorian State is currently a member of an Alliance that includes giants of the seed sector such as Monsanto and Syngenta, local companies like Agripac and Ecuaquimica, and State agencies and the INIAP Agrocalidad, as can be seen on the website of the Ecuadorian Association of producers of seeds, ECUASEM:br www.ecuasem.org. We are concerned about the apparent conflict of interest that arises from this Alliance, and we do not fail to perceive that no similar association within the State represents
allied peasant organizations, associations of producers, other
organizations of the field or consumer groups. We believe that the voices of small and medium-sized producers, including the sectors of farming and organic farming and agro-ecological, must be taken into account in the debate on the law on seeds, and agreements rendered must be binding.
We are also worried about the insistence from the State to support a particular agro Ecuadorian sector, the agro-industrial sector, by means of subsidies and technical advice oriented to the use of industrial certified seeds and its packaging technology.
Testimonies of the peasant sector, as in the case of Mocache this year 2016,
indicate that the use of certified seed and its technological package carried the destruction of soils and ecosystems, to a total loss of production and the consequent impoverishment of the population. In the framework of an agricultural model where farmers depend on borrowing and the chains of productivity, these crisis represent for many the loss of their lands and other property. Therefore, consider that the seed certified in Ecuador is far from a solution for all the peasant sector, and demand respect and support for alternative models, that are more sustainable, that are developing in the agro Ecuadorian sector.
4. We want to point out that the fact that the agro-industrial sector wants to require compulsory seed certification is easily discounted based on two points and has no basis in updated science :
1. Agro-industry argues that the low productivity is caused by the use of uncertified seed . This point is false by several reasons:
a. productivity in Ecuador is affected by the depletion of the
soils and ecosystems, which is the result of the agro-industrial model.
b. actually the productivity depends directly on the adaptation of the
seed to the local conditions. In a country such as the megadiverse Ecuador,
This means that the seed should be adapted to different climatic zones,
as has been the work of farmers since the beginning of agriculture. In
a future of energy shortages and climate change, it is essential that this work intensifies.
c. Productivity cannot be measured only in metric tons of a
product, which in addition is evaluated only for its commercial value for Big Industry. You have to take into account other factors, such as energy efficiency, where peasant and family agriculture easily defeats industry. Another very important way of assessing productivity is
proposed by activist Vandana Shiva regarding seeds: measurement of the health per hectare, which assesses the amount of real nutrients and other benefits that occur in cultivation; according to these parameters, the orchards and diversified agro-ecological farms are the most
productive units on the planet.
2. Agro-industry argues that the free flow of seeds is a threat to
health as the non-certified seed has pests and diseases. Two points
serve us to refute this notion:
- There are not scientific studies that demonstrate that this is a problem in the country. On the contrary, the empirical evidence is that the peasantry has not has abandoned the tradition of exchange of seed throughout the nation, and this has not generated epidemics.
b. The agro-ecological producers in the country have shown that
organisms considered to be pests and diseases can live in a
diversified culture without causing problems, if the soil is fertile and the seed has been locally adapted. The expansion the level of pests and diseases is caused by monoculture and the use of pesticides.
5. We believe that a law of seeds in the Ecuador should focus on these considerations: seed from peasants, native seed, Creole seed, organic seed,
ancestral seed, and seed heritage of ecological or cultural significance. All of these concepts have great relevance for various economic and social sectors in the country. All these seeds have high genetics diversity and variability, are resilient and adaptable, and corrrespond to cultural identity. They are ideal for the population to attend to in the interest of generating agro-biodiversity, since this is the direct result of an alive peasant culture who continually practiced the process of selection and multiplication of seeds. According to the encyclopedia of the useful plants of Ecuador (De la Torre et al,
2008) there are 5.172 plant species that are used by the
population in our country. That is the heritage that is at risk if access to seeds is limited and if genetic pollution is introduced. Industry certified seed has remarkably poor genetic diversity, and proposes only a few species for
We also affirm that these seeds have ecological, social, nutritional, and cultural characteristics and attributes among others, that determine their quality. Therefore, we do not accept imposing a concept of quality based on technical value, equal to the parameters that are used to certify the agroindustrial seed. Only those who keep and use
these seeds can establish their parameters of quality.
7. Therefore we declare that:
- There must not be any any form of imposed regulation, registration or certification to seeds of these origins: native, peasant, ancestral, organic, or heritage, or to any other forms of reproduction of this germplasm among the population, including seedlings, pylons, or trees.
- There must NOT be limited in any way the right of the people to store, carry,
exchange and sell their seeds, according to their cultural criteria and forms of
-Seed must not be reported as "strategic resource of the State" or any other categorization that is an attempt against the private property ownership and the free use of the seed by peoples and nationalities.
- Seeds which are managed by companies of big capital, such as industrial type of seeds should have controls imposed upon them. These controls must include the explicit prohibition of all forms of privatization of peasant, native, ancestral, heritage seed, and of ecological or cultural importance.
-The constitutional ban of GMOs should be kept and should
regulate this constitutional mandate, through the creation of
relevant regulation agencies, and sanctions.
- We should keep the constitutional ban on granting Intelectual Property Rights (patents) on living organisms and ancestral knowledge. These are not strategic resources that the State can grant to the best bidder; they are common goods that belong to all the population and to nature.
We call the entire population to defend these points, which
our future depends upon and that of our sons and daughters.
8. Finally, we propose that the law includes these following regulations:
That the State should stimulate the production of peasant seeds adapted to the local level and the seeds’ freedom of movement, by:
a.-awareness of the population about the seeds’ characteristics and importance,
-the creation of spaces and systems of exchange, such as
marketing trade fairs, festivals, competitions, etc.,
-training aimed at breeding farms, including seed in
-the recognition of the contributions of the population from the ancestral knowledge, the different worldviews of the peoples of the Ecuador , the autonomous practices of families and communities in the process of continuous creation of the agro-biodiversity at the local level,
b. We should facilitate access of the population to the INIAP
genebanks, using simple conventions and with tracking which lead to a
the seed multiplication and the strengthening of these banks.
c. We should regulate and fund the defense of the country against transgenic pollution.
d. Local seed germplasm must be adapted and breeded for the
overseas species, which are not natives, but rather, recent inclusion in the national food culture, such as many vegetables. This is important in order that the population may begin a process of selection and local plant breeding to criollizar these seeds, similar to the next generation of rice or cabbage from centuries past.
e.In general the State goal should be to ensure agro-biodiversity, the
diversity of seeds and the sovereignty of the population in regard to the seeds, and defend the interests of the people above those of big private capital.
In this sense, seed law should be reflected in all the mechanisms of
institutional reform including State laws which involve water and land, mills, practical and good standards of food handling code (Agrocalidad and
ARCSA), trade agreement with the European Union and all the others that apply.
f. Finally, the new seed law should serve to build a new model
of agriculture, seeking sustainability, which is geared to the production of food for population, which further diversifies local economy, that promotes food sovereignty and good living, that recognizes the knowledge and practices of the ancestral peoples and nationalities of the country, that defends the agrobiodiversity and seeds as a heritage and a natural right of peoples and not as a strategic resource of the State or private companies, who understands that the agrobiodiversity is the result of a dynamic and ongoing process of nature, culture and the economy
Participated and approved this Declaration: COPISA, Observatorio del Cambio Rural, Red Guardianes de Semillas, Colectivo Nacional Agroecológico, Campaña Al Grano,Coordinadora Nacional Campesina Eloy Alfaro, y unos 120 participantes a título personal.
Quito, July 6, 2016.