Seed Sovereignty: How Patents Can Wipe Out Tomorrow’s Dinner

The NextWomen Sustainability & Clean Tech theme.

Movements usually start with a small beginning, and in the case of food security, the seed is the source of all power. For our future meals, and for our actions of today. 

Dr Vandana Shiva, Founder of Navdanya (a women-centred movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity), has literally put her hands into the roots of the issue and is a change-maker in seed sovereignty, a movement that has now covered the world. In the lead up to last week's World Food Day she declared the first 'Seed Satyagraha', seeking to affirm No Patents On Seeds.

The movement of seed saving and sharing began in response to the crisis of agricultural biodiversity. The belief is that seed is the genesis of our food system, and the source of life. Whoever controls seeds has a mighty hand over food and freedom.

It is well documented that MNCs like Monsanto have created unequal and dangerous practices in seed creation and dissemination. Genetic modifications and non-renewable sterile seeds have created seed monopolies and contaminated much of the worlds most fertile farming land, with thousands of documented cases of farmer suicides.

It might seem counterintuitive that I'm writing in a business magazine about calling an end to patents, however this is where we have to draw the line between commercialism and ethics.

Between making a buck today, and ensuring a world for our grandchildren.  

What Vandana and her peers stand for is to stop the patenting of seeds, and put the rights and strengths of growing back in the hands of the landowners.

Currently, there are farmers who not only lose the use of their land because their soil is infected by the toxic traces of GM seeds that make it only workable for a certified MNC mono crop seed, but also these families are being sued for ‘stealing genes’ if the farmer continues to grow.

It’s like being pushed in a corner and kicked while you’re down. Oh, in front of your family and holding your children’s future in your hands.

Dr Vandana ShivaVandana‘s group Navdanya works with local communities around India and to date has over 40 000 individual farmers establishing 54 seed banks. Community seed banks are a network of people over different geographies supporting each other in the rejuvenation of biodiversity and collectively increasing their self reliance.

So far, over 3000 rice genotypes, including native varieties, have been conserved, plus over 70 varieties of wheats, millets, oil seeds, vegetables and traditional medicinal plants.

The issue of sustainability goes well beyond the simple organic argument. It’s deeper, and it’s literally at root level. Sustainability starts with seeds and the protection of the right to buy and plant that which is most appropriate for land and village.

Declaration on Seed Freedom

  • Seed is the source of life. It is the self-urge of life to express itself, to renew itself, to multiply, to evolve in perpetuity in freedom.
  • Seed is the embodiment of biocultural diversity. It contains millions of years of biological and cultural evolution of the past, and the potential of millennia of a future unfolding.
  • Seed Freedom is the birth right of every form of life and is the basis for the protection of biodiversity.

See Dr Vandana Shiva talk about seed sovereignty (3 minutes):

See Alyssa's other Sustainability & Clean Tech article here: The Story of Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Geum-Soon Yoon, A Woman Farmer

Alyssa Jade McDonald is the founding MD of BLYSS GmbH. The name BLYSS comes from the English word „bliss“, which literally describes a state of profound happiness and joy. Alyssa Jade felt the fusion of bliss and her own name, Lyss, was a commitment to bringing joy into the world via a consciously-indulgent gourmet experience and evolving business methods to bring communities forward together, from addressing diabetes in the Gulf to standards of living in South America.

After years of corporate life which had shattered her health, Lyss began looking for the best solutions for her stomach, environment, and community. She completed the Ironman world championships and threw a handful of naked cacao beans into the ocean off Kona and promised freedom to chocolate. In awe of the intense properties of cacao, she was determined to bring chocolate back to being the food of gods, and find a way to protect it. Three years of research and trial and error sessions in the kitchen eventually led to the science of turning cacao into high quality chocolate through the virgin process. For more information about Alyssa, see her profile. 

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