Outlawing Peasant Seeds in South Latin America
Latin American governments are looking to standardise seeds by law.
Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela have proposed and discussed seed laws.
This is being resisted by communities, organisations and peoples. These laws religiously follow the guidelines laid down by the big seed transnationals: Bayer-Monsanto, Corteva-Agriscience, ChemChina (Syngenta) and Vilmorin&Cie-Limograin. United Nations agencies such as the UNs Food and
Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Conference on Trade and Development and the World Intellectual Property Organisation are large bodies which promote these regulations, draw up model laws and teach governments how to implement them.
Marketing laws define the criteria which must be met for seeds to come on to the market. They can only be marketed if they are of a variety which meets three important requirements: they must be “distinct”, “uniform” and “stable”.
Intellectual property laws are regulations which recognise that a person or entity, or a seed company, is the exclusive owner of a seed with particular characteristics, and has the legal right to stop other people or entities using, producing, exchanging or selling it. There are two main “intellectual property” systems for
seeds: patents, and Plant Variety Protection, which confers rights on whoever “obtains” a variety, even if it goes back thousands of years in its present form.
Trade and investment agreements are tools used by companies to force governments to adopt and promote corporate rights over seeds.
These proposed laws seek to outlaw the way peasants’ and indigenous people’s local systems use, exchange, produce and improve local varieties. They allow companies to define national policies on seeds, research, and agriculture. This creates a certification and oversight system controlled by private corporations.
This forces communities and peoples to accept the standards set by the transnationals, and to be scrutinised by private bodies if they wish to continue to exchange “legal” seeds. It delays, minimises or eliminates any concern for preserving agricultural diversity. It aims to standardise seed use and exchange traditions, which date back thousands of years. It imposes industrial standards on agriculture, facilitating seed privatisation. It seeks to qualify and classify all seeds, even local and native ones, so that corporate ownership of seeds is respected. In this way, whoever produces seeds will be monitored, no matter what seed they produce or how they exchange it.