Thursday, October 17, 2013

GM agriculture is not the answer to seed diversity – it's part of the problem

Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation in the "poverty matters" blog at the Guardian (UK): For thousands of years, farmers across the globe have skilfully observed, saved and bred a wealth of seed diversity, cultivating ever more crop varieties to deal with the challenges of farming. The need to save, exchange and pass seed on is so important to farming that it is embedded into cultural practices around the world to ensure future generations can have the seed diversity and complex farming knowledge they need to continue to grow food and develop crops.

But recent decades have seen a dramatic decrease in global seed diversity, for the first time in history. Since the introduction of the so-called Green Revolution of the 1960s, alongside laws that restrict farmers' rights ... to save and exchange seed, agribusiness corporations have steadily increased sales of hybrid and GM crops. Genetic diversity and farmers' knowledge are the basis of farming; but as corporate seed and chemicals increasingly replace farmers' own ingenuity, they are now seen as mere customers. What was once agriculture is increasingly becoming agribusiness.

...Farmers today and in the future will need to grow a wide diversity of crop varieties to spread their risk and deal with variable amounts of rain, changing temperatures, saline conditions, emerging pests and diseases, as well as a diversity of nutritional and medicinal needs. Imagine each seed variety taking millions of dollars and many years before corporations bring it to market, where it would need to be planted in huge monocultures to recoup the enormous investment. The inevitable outcome of this vision will be the disappearance of global crop diversity, while farmers struggle to access the seed that they – and the communities they feed – urgently need.

It is time for us to recognise that corporate and GM agriculture is part of the problem, and cannot be part of the solution. Instead, we need policies and practices that actively support the revival of seed diversity and seed-saving knowledge in farmers' hands, and that ensure this is passed on to the generations to come....

USDA photo of some barley

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