Argentina is a country that depends overwhelmingly on the agricultural industry, earning a surplus by exporting agricultural commodities like (in the majority genetically modified) soy, corn, and wheat. The soybean produced, for example, constitutes 22% of the world’s total. Both raw and processed agricultural goods make up more than half of Argentina’s foreign exchange.
In the last couple of decades, multinational agroindustry companies like Monsanto and Syngenta have transformed the agricultural lands of Argentina into vast swathes of monocropping at huge social and environmental costs. Considering their enormous economic power, such companies are capable of swaying politics to pursue national policies that attempt to leverage corporate control of the seed supply and seeks to limit the scope of farmer sovereignty in order to tighten their grasp on the monopoly.
One explicit example of their influence is the impending threat of amendments to the seed policies that favor the privatization of seed, based on the international convention of UPOV 91, that grants monopoly rights to “discovered” varieties and their subsequent production and marketing. These ever-pending revisions would allow the intellectual “owners” the right to appeal for the confiscation of crops and products derived from the harvest, or even to file for criminal complaints for farmers that could lead to imprisonment.
We state that these amendments are not legal and are an outright threat to human rights and the dignity of the earth. Crop seed and the circulation thereof is, and has been, the foundation of humanity’s food supply for generations. To impose a system that privatizes seed opens the channels for the exploitation of a living heritage of humanity. It makes illegal the possibility for farmers to participate in the age-old activity of selection and variety improvement, or the free exchange and multiplication of seed, and therefore limiting and stifling the advancement of biodiversity. The amendments would legitimize and advance the development of genetically modified cultivars and opens the door further for the exploitation of the food system, limiting food sovereignty locally.
Although we could provide a long list of arguments to counter these unethical tendencies, our intention is above all to take action and to act positively in favor of an agriculture that respects food sovereignty as one of the pillars of civil society. Among the protagonists, we believe, are the two-thirds of small-scale and family farmers that make up the total of agricultural ventures in Argentina (according to the Ministry of Agriculture). Our intentions are aimed at giving this group of people, including indigenous communities, and all those that believe in a sustainable future the ability to feed and decide for themselves. The Seed initiative is of national interest because it goes in the direction of depending less on raw materials like agricultural commodities, and makes efforts towards economically mobilizing the majority group small-farmers by developing a value-added product like seeds.
Already consciousness is awakening regarding new models of agriculture that puts the dialogue back into the hands of the farmer. Towns are beginning to declare green belts free of chemical agriculture and direct channels of communication and marketing between farmers and consumers are being explored. Civil organizations such as AABDA, MAELA (Movement for Agroecology in Latin America), or Red de Semillas Libres (Seed Freedom Network) provide platforms for farmers and concerned society members to educate and inform themselves about the current situation and to map a new path. Practical solutions are needed to show that organic agriculture is possible and effective in these new spaces that arise. The strength of farmers and gardeners begins with the seed in their hand…
We recommend the following text on “Seed as a Common Good” available at https://www.goetheanum.org/article/sektion-fuer-landwirtschaft-studie-saatgut-gemeingut/ (Wirz, J., Kunz, P., Hurter U., 2017, Saatgut – Gemeingut, Züchtung als Quelle von Realwirtschaft, Recht und Kultur. Goetheanum und Fonds für Kulturentwicklung, 2017: Dornach, Feldbach, Switzerland)
A review of statistics of family agriculture in Argentina: http://acovi.com.ar/observatorio/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/agricultura-familiar-en-cifras.pdf (September, 2017)
Website of GRAIN organization for the support of small farmers and social movements: https://www.grain.org/article/entries/4808-seed-laws-in-latin-america-the-offensive-continues-so-does-popular-resistance (September, 2017)
Wikipedia “Agriculture in Argentina” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_Argentina (September, 2017) including references to Argentine government statistics
List of publications by the Argentine government authority on small- and family-scale agriculture: http://www.ucar.gob.ar/index.php/component/tags/tag/31-agricultura-familiar