‘The social and political life of seeds’ at the AIBR Conference

Last week, Amaranta and I attended the AIBR Conference in Barcelona. AIBR stands for the Network of Iberoamerican Anthropologists, an international organisation of Spanish, Latin American and Portuguese anthropologists.

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On Tuesday 6th of September was the opening session of the conference, with an excellent presentation by the Colombian anthropologist Arturo Escobar. He is one of the most important Latin American anthropologists, with extensive work on political ecology, social movements and post-development studies. His talk introduced aspects such as the ethnic-territorial struggles in Latin America being ontological struggles for building a world in which all worlds have a place or the resurgence of the “commons” as a transitional discourse.

queremos un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos

After the opening, we presented in a panel titled “The social and political life of seeds“, coordinated by Susana Carro Ripalda and Marta Barba Gassó. In our presentation “Una perspectiva sistémica en la evaluación los OGMs: El viaje de una semilla de maíz transgénica“, we introduced the value of the systemic perspective for assessing GMOs using the multi-sited ethnography approach that we are implementing in Spain. This is also what we explained in our paper: Seeing GMOs from a Systems perspective. During the talk we also had the opportunity to present the cartographies of GM, chemically-intensive, certified organic and agroecological cartographies that we have recently developed using this approach.

During our session, other very interesting talks were presented, on topics like the cultural aspects of GM vs indigenous maize in Mexico, the story of how a tomato variety became a “traditional” seed in the Basque Country from a gender perspective, and the socio-cultural value of seed conservation in two study cases in Spain. All presentations shared the vision of seeds as entities that shape and are shaped, beyond their biological substrate, by the interests, values and visions that emerge in the contexts where they are developed and used. At the same time, seeds influence the discourses, practices, knowledges and skills of the other agents with whom they interact. The session was in fact very rich despite the fact that, as very often happens in academic conferences, there was too little time to discuss and share.

After the session ended, we discussed potential collaborations on this topic, which would give us the possibility to keep exploring these visions about seeds in the future.

Lack of organic maize statistics in Spain

In one of my last posts, I wrote about the confusing official statistics on the GM maize surface area in Spain. In that post, I also mentioned the difficulty of compiling statistics on organic maize, which is important if we are to get an accurate picture of how coexistence is playing out in Spain and how this has changed over time. In this post, I therefore want to outline the difficulties we have experienced getting accurate figures for organic maize in Spain in more detail.

Based on statistics from the Catalan Organic Certification Body and the Organic Certification Body in Aragon, it was shown that the surface area devoted to the cultivation of organic maize diminished very significantly in both Catalonia and Aragón – where most GM maize is growing in Spain – after the first analyses for GM detection were done. Until recently, these two bodies have been the only source of information on the organic maize surface area but such statistics were not systematically published by them. The situation now is even more complex, since in Aragón there are now also private certification bodies, compiling their own statistics.

In fact, official statistics on organic maize in Spain are a very recent phenomenon. It is only since 3 years ago that the statistics of the Annual Report on Organic Agriculture published by the Agriculture Ministry differentiated the surface area cultivated with maize on its own at all. Before then it was simply registered under the broader umbrella category of “grains”.

My beautiful picture

GM maize demonstration field

Seeing the potential difficulties to compile the organic maize statistics in Spain (and specifically in Catalonia and Aragón) since the introduction of GM maize in 1998, we therefore requested the available figures from all these different bodies. In the case of the Spanish Ministry, as explained before, only the numbers for the 3 last years were recorded and provided. In the case of the Catalan Organic Certification Body, the available information only dates back to 2007, and for the public certification body in Aragón, they only sent us information from 2009. In order to be able to see the bigger picture and changes over time with the introduction and spread of GM maize, we have had to compile information from public interventions or declarations made by technicians or representatives of these bodies, by farmers or representatives of farmers’ unions, and complement this with our own qualitative data, which introduces a very high level of uncertainty around the figures.

So one of our methodological challenges now is really the question of how can we assess the impact of coexistence on organic maize if basic data such as figures for the different types of maize cultivation (organic, conventional, GM) is lacking?

Otra vez de vueltas con el arroz dorado

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La semana pasada estuvimos escribiendo un artículo sobre la compatibilidad entre el uso de organismos genéticamente modificados (OMGs) y la agricultura ecológica. En el artículo, que se publicará próximamente, explicamos el conflicto de paradigmas y visiones del mundo que hay detrás de la oposición a los transgénicos desde el punto de vista de la agricultura ecológica y la agroecología, revisitando la nueva posición sobre OMGs de la Federación Internacional de Movimientos de Agricultura Ecológica (IFOAM), que actualmente está bajo consulta pública antes de su aprobación.

Mientras escribíamos este artículo, el debate sobre los transgénicos ha vuelto a acaparar la atención de la opinión pública, como sucede cada cierto tiempo, debido a la carta abierta que más de 100 galardonados con el Premio Nobel han enviado a la organización Greenpeace. En esta dura carta se pide a Greenpeace que abandone su campaña contra los transgénicos en general y contra el arroz dorado, en particular. La carta termina preguntándose cuánta más gente tiene que morir antes de considerar (¿la oposición a los transgénicos o al arroz dorado?) un crimen contra la humanidad. El arroz dorado es un arroz modificado genéticamente creado en 1999 manipulado para producir un precursor de la vitamina A (betacaroteno) cuya carencia provoca problemas oculares y ceguera en niños en países empobrecidos. Greenpeace a su vez ha contestado a dicha carta con un comunicado de prensa, argumentando que los transgénicos no son la solución al hambre en el mundo, ni tampoco a los problemas nutricionales. Asimismo, la organización GM Watch también ha publicado un escrito muy interesante sobre quién está detrás de la carta abierta de los Premios Nóbel y por qué publicarla en estos momentos. En una nota al final de la carta, afirman que:

GMWatch ha sido alertado de que la web que promociona la carta de los Premios Nóbel es supportprecisionagriculture.org, pero que la misma versión .com redirige a la web Genetic Literacy Project. La campaña a favor del etiquetado de los transgénicos en EEUU llamada ‘US Right to Know’ define el Genetic Literacy Project como un “grupo importante de la industria de los agrotóxicos…  con financiación desconocida pero que ataca regularmente a activistas, periodistas y científicos preocupados por los riesgos ambientales y para la salud de los OMGs y los pesticidas.”

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A nuestro entender, el primer aspecto que llama la atención de la carta de los Premios Nobél es que es bastante cutre y que parece que busca más la legitimidad a través de la utilización del renombre de los signatarios que por los argumentos en si, dado que no ofrece ningún argumento científico más allá de grandilocuentes frases generales. Consideramos este hecho como una oportunidad perdida para debatir el tema con más profundidad, y analizar de forma detallada los argumentos a favor y en contra, así como las incertidumbres -y la ignorancia- que rodea la cuestión. Más allá de que parece poco probable que OMG por sí sólo pueda acabar con problemas políticos complejos y multicausales como son el hambre y/o la pobreza (tal y como en la propia página sobre el arroz dorado del International Rice Research Institute se explica), aún existen muchas incertidumbres respecto al arroz dorado.

Por ejemplo, en un artículo reciente publicado por los investigadores Glenn Stone y Dominique Glover en Agriculture y Human Values en el cuál se preguntan cuáles son los motivos por los que el arroz dorado no se está comercializando y si ésto se debe a la oposición de grupos ecologistas o hay otras causas. Los investigadores concluyen que no es la oposición de grupos como Greenpeace sino las incertidumbres que aún después de 25 años de investigación lo que ha causado que el arroz dorado aún no se haya aprobado para su comercialización. Así, los investigadores, que trabajan en un proyecto que compara el arroz dorado con otros maíces de la llamada Revolución Verde o con variedades tradicionales, explican que  el arroz dorado simplemente no ha sido exitoso a nivel de rendimiento en los ensayos de campo en Filipinas donde se ha testado y por lo tanto, ni tan sólo se ha enviado la petición de aprobación a las autoridades. Además, éstos señalan que aún no se sabe si el betacaroteno del arroz dorado puede convertirse en vitamina A en el organismo de niños gravemente desnutridos. Por último, añaden que existen también pocos datos sobre cómo de bien se mantendrá el beta-caroteno del arroz dorado al almacenarse durante largos períodos de tiempo entre cosechas, o al cocinarse utilizando métodos tradicionales comunes en zonas rurales aisladas.

 

Confusing statistics regarding GM maize in Spain

confusion

I am currently trying to compile statistics on GM, conventional and organic maize in Spain. Article 31 of Directive 2001/18/EC establishes that Member States shall establish registers for recording the location of GMOs, and make them  known to the public. This means compiling statistics on the situation should be a quite straightforward task. As a person involved in the GM debate in Spain for long time though, I know it is not.

As information to the public, the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture publishes yearly statistics on the surface area cultivated with GM maize (the only authorised GM crop in Europe) on the level of Autonomous Communities. This information is very far from being a useful public register, for example in terms of being the appropriate scale of information to prevent contamination. This data is also produced according to what the biotechnology companies declare as being sold (in units of 50.000 seeds) and this quantity is multiplied by 1,7, which is considered the “normal” sowing dose per hectare. In contrast, the regional Agriculture departments publish data based on what variety the farmers state they grow when applying for the CAP subsidies. Differences in the figures presented by these two levels of the agriculture authorities are as high as 66%, as reported by a coalition of NGOs and farmers unions linked to agriculture and environment in Spain.

Different hypotheses for the discrepancies could be posed: a) Either farmers do not declare the variety they will grow (deliberatively or because they do not know or they have not decided when applying for the subsidies), or b) The biotech companies are exaggerating the numbers so it looks like adoption rates in Spain are much higher than the actual figures. Both (and other possibilities) could also be happening at the same time.

In the graph below you can see the number of hectares of GM maize in Catalonia depending on the data source, and the difference (%) between the two data sets for each year. A similar situation can be found for Aragón.

Surface of GM maize in Catalonia depending on data source (1998-2015)

Funnily enough, it is also not easy to get statistics on organic maize in Spain. This is because up until 3 years ago,  the official agricultural statistics did not differentiate the surface area cultivated with maize on its own, simply registering it under the umbrella category of “grains”.

Struggling with how to get an accurate picture of how much GM vs organic maize cultivation is taking place and how this has changed over time leaves me also questioning how it might be possible based on these poor registers to assess in a reliable way what is happening and how coexistence is playing out in Spain.

Seminar on Critical Perspectives on GMOs at Cape Town University

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The last two weeks we have been in South Africa. It has been truly a very insightful experience that has helped us understand slightly better some of the complex realities that shape maize production in this amazing country. During the first week, we visited three very different small-scale farming communities in Kwazulu Natal, and for the second week we traveled to Cape Town to have our team meeting and to participate in two seminars at the University of Cape Town.

The first seminar was with postgraduate students conducting research related to GMOs in South Africa. It was a really interesting session that allowed us to share our own experiences with other researchers working on this topic from different perspectives and contexts. It also helped us us very much to better understand the functioning of the food systems where GM maize has been introduced in the country, the driving forces, circumstances and changes produced. Finally, we also focused on the ethical implications of our research, our challenges and strategies.

The second seminar was titled “Critical perspectives on GMOs”, and was organised by the Bio-economy Chair at the University of Cape Town.

critical-perspectives-posterThe seminar brought together different critical perspectives on the analysis and assessment of GMOs. The session was chaired by Rachel Wynberg from the University of Cape Town and Maya’s PhD co-supervisor. First, Fern Wickson presented her paper on exploring the advantages of using feminist care ethics lens for the assessment of agricultural biotechnology. Following this presentation, the three other presentations explored the concept of resistance related to GM crops from very different approaches. In the second talk, I discussed the emergence of glyphosate-resistant Johnsongrass and the situation in relation with herbicide-resistant weeds in Argentina by analysing the driving forces behind the initial spread of GR johnsongrass, its impacts and the social, economic and environmental implications of response strategies, including the institutional conditions and constraints involved. Then, professor Johnnie van den Bergh from the Northwest University explored the insect resistance in Bt GM crops in South Africa, its consequences for the future use of Bt maize and for the conservation of heirloom seeds. It was very interesting to see many coincidences in the processes of resistance evolution in both cases, as well as in the responses given to it. Finally Amaranta Herrero introduced a paper we are currently working on the everyday forms of human resistance to the expansion of GM maize by exploring the often no-visible practices of farmers and other actors practicing non-GM agriculture in Spain.

The seminar ended with a vivid round of question and discussions, and a shared lunch. It was again a great opportunity for us to share our research and to learn from all the assistants at the seminar.

 

 

 

Managing agricultural landscapes to improve resilience

Emma Soy-Massoni

PhD Candidate

Geography Department, University of Girona

Today we are very fortunate to have Emma Soy-Massoni guest blogging on the work of her PhD thesis, which relates to the interests of the Agri/Cultures project

 Screenshot from 2016-04-04 14:47:54

I don’t come from a farming family, but I’ve always felt great admiration for women and men working the land and producing our food. During my studies in Agronomy I’ve enjoyed some contact with the farming sector. Through these encounters curiosity about their practices has continued to grow, particularly a curiosity to understand the main reasons for taking certain decisions that have a high impact on the environment. I see farming as a bipolar reality at the moment, where farms under the rhythms of the global markets coexist with others those working for local and sustainable production. In between there is, of course, a large grayscale.

My perception of agriculture and food production has always been romantic, surely due to my origins in a Catalan/Spanish mountain region, the Ripollès County, where grasslands’ greenness is breathed and animals feed “free-range”. However, this perception slightly changed after moving to the Terraprim area (in Pla de l’Estany County). Here, agrarian landscapes combine with forests to form a mosaic of great beauty, but aware of the high livestock density in this territory, I was naively surprised about the lack of animals in the fields. At this point, the disconnect between food production and consumers became more obvious to me. Who grows these cereals? Which animals eat it? Where can I buy the meat, milk or dairy produced here?

The Terraprim, like other Catalonian rural areas, hosts newcomers seeking to reside close to nature and become members of a rural community, where citizen participation is often more likely. For the most part, these newcomers are not involved in the farming sector, but do have high environmental consciousness, bringing new visions and ideas about rural development. Realities from both newcomers and natives live together in a kind of harmony. Even so, recent socio-economic changes are driving a shift in agriculture and forestry practices that transforms traditional landscapes and establishes homogenization patterns. Due to this process, conflicts and diverging opinions about land management and woodland models are accelerating, with natives and newcomers often confronted by opposing visions.

Noticing this, I felt great inspiration to develop a PhD to understand the perceptions around landscape in a highly farmed territory undergoing an intensification process, yet also receiving high amounts of tourism for its beauty and multifunctionality. Here, I describe some findings from my thesis (hyperlink to your thesis):

  • The industrialization of agriculture has also degraded the traditional landscape mosaics and the historical biodiversity associated with them. The result is not only an interruption in the transmission of the traditional knowledge required for local landscape maintenance, but also socio-economic destabilization of rural areas and a loss of competitiveness of agriculture. This and renders the future of many of these landscapes highly uncertain. Although the specific drivers and outcomes of these processes vary from landscape to landscape, a central tendency is the fundamental decoupling of the socio-cultural and ecological subsystems where the conversion of multi-functional landscapes into more simple, productive, and mono-functional ones endangers the permanence of rural areas. Both ‘special’ landscapes of high ecological or social value and ordinary ‘everyday’ landscapes are affected by these processes.

  • Changes in agricultural practices have led to declines in the farming population and significant changes within the landscape. But, paradoxically, many rural areas are recording significant demographic growth. Rural areas are simultaneously becoming residential places for a growing number of urban-to-rural migrants. Along with the social recomposition of rural communities, the increase in residential use of the countryside appears a determining factor in landscape change. The extent to which urban and non-farming migrants are settling in rural areas is creating a ‘rural renaissance’, characterized by a demographic revival in these areas. Concepts such as ‘‘rural landscape’’, ‘‘scenery or scenic amenity’’ or ‘‘attractive physical environments’’ have been identified as important factors explaining rural destination moves. European agricultural landscapes are valued as everyday living environments, countryside, heritage, scenery with aesthetic and recreational qualities as well as unique biodiversity.

  • Maintaining cultural ecosystem services is relevant given it favors the persistence of landscapes that have developed over a long time period. Also, land use management based on landscape history can lead to long-lasting resilient landscapes. Traditional agricultural landscapes are socio-ecological systems where historically the ecological and social subsystems have been tightly linked, because people have shaped the land through their activities and the land has provided people with a variety of ecosystem services. In fact, traditionally, cultural identity has been deeply rooted in the landscape.

  • Socio-ecological systems have successfully incorporated “Traditional Ecological Knowledge” (TEK), a cultural baggage that includes knowledge, practices and believes about the relations of living creatures between themselves and with their environments, which is transmitted from generation to generation. It has been frequently demonstrated that traditional ecological knowledge is critical to the survival and future well-being of traditional societies worldwide, and to the maintenance of long-term resilience. However, traditional ecological knowledge has been or is being lost across generations in many parts of Europe, often because of rapid transformations and modernization of land use systems. Maintaining cultural ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes because of, as expressed above, their direct relationship with maintaining TEK and, altogether, by enhancing community well-being and long-term resilience, is key for the future of rural areas.

Are GE and organic agriculture compatible?

Public consultation on the position of IFOAM – Organics International on genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms

‘Conventional’ agriculture is increasingly adopting techniques associated with both genetic engineering (GE) and also, selectively, with agroecological practices, in what has been called the “sustainable intensification” agenda. At the same time, it has also been suggested in some scientific arenas that organic agriculture would benefit from incorporating GMOs into its practices, despite the robust opposition the use of these organisms has traditionally received from the organic sector.

This debate strongly intersects with the current public consultation that IFOAM-Organics International (the worldwide umbrella organisation for the organic agriculture movement) has launched about its position on GE and GMOs. The consultation is open now to any individual or organization willing to participate. The objective of the consultation is to review the organisation’s original position (launched in 2002) in order to consider and include new developments in GE technology, as well as to adapt their position to a context involving a higher presence of GM crops and growing evidence of the impacts of GE. IFOAM has produced a new position draft, which is open for comment and proposed amendments.

In my opinion, the new draft represents a very substantial improvement on the previous document because it includes many new nuanced and comprehensive arguments for the rejection of GM crops within organic production, while it also widens the scope and the techniques included within a definition of GE (in line with the discussion on the regulation of new breeding techniques). Also, the connections between the IFOAM position on GMOs and its four principles for organic agriculture (the principles of health, fairness, ecology and care) are explicit and articulated. At the same time, the draft adopts a much needed food systems approach, discussing not only the impacts of GM crops for organic farmers and consumers, but also tackling R&D aspects (e.g. discussing responsible innovation and patents on life), and agri-food governance (i.e calling for a more democratic decision-making concerning GMOs and for including socio-economic impacts in the assessment of GMOs). It also calls both for deliberating on the need for GE crops, and for seeking alternative options before their introduction (in line with the principles described in the Norwegian Gene Technology Act). Finally, it is also positive that the position is explicitly trying to build bridges with additional stakeholders from conventional agriculture who are also increasingly interested in preserving their production as GM-free. This offers the possibility of generating new alliances and defining common strategies to face common problems.

I think this process of reflecting on the organic position on GMOs, and revisiting the supporting arguments for it, is an excellent opportunity to engage in the debate about merging GM and organic agricultures and, especially, to refine and improve the arguments surrounding “sustainable intensification” proposals.
PS. Feedback to IFOAM can be sent until 31st of March 2016.

Derechos de propiedad intelectual sobre la biodiversidad cultivada

El pasado viernes asistí a unas jornadas técnicas organizadas por el Departament d’Agricultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya con la colaboración de l’Era y Red de Semillas Cultivando e Intercambiando sobre los derechos de propiedad intelectual sobre la biodiversidad cultivada.

Las jornadas trataron sobre los derechos de obtentor, patentes y derechos de propiedad intelectual en las semillas, y las repercusiones que tienen la implementación de los marcos regulatorios y la gestión que se hace de estos mecanismos para la conservación de semilllas de variedades tradicionales. El acto contó con una participación muy activa de personas vinculadas a bancos de semillas de Cataluña, agricultores/as, personas que trabajan en la administración e investigadores/as.

En su intervención, María Carrascosa, de la Red Andaluza de Semillas y la Red de Semillas Cultivando e Intercambiando presentó el Manifiesto por el derecho de los agricultores y agricultoras a vender sus propias semillas de variedades tradicionales que se publicó con motivo de la 5ª Semana Estatal por la Biodiversidad Agrícola en 2015.

sembrant a mà

Manifiesto por el derecho de los agricultores y agricultoras a vender sus propias semillas de variedades tradicionales

En el contexto de una agricultura campesina diversificada y desde la perspectiva agroecológica, la gestión de la biodiversidad agrícola es clave para mantener la sostenibilidad de las explotaciones familiares y conseguir la soberanía alimentaria. Así, las variedades tradicionales1 y semillas libres2 permiten a las fincas agrarias reforzar su resiliencia a las perturbaciones exteriores, los cambios climáticos, ambientales o las crisis de mercado; aumentar la estabilidad del agrosistema; y reducir el grado de dependencia del complejo agroindustrial de producción de semillas y agroquímicos.

Las variedades tradicionales muestran una mayor adaptación a las condiciones de cultivo de la agricultura ecológica y campesina, ya que han sido seleccionadas en el contexto de una agricultura con bajo aporte de insumos externos, buscando su adaptación a las condiciones edafoclimáticas y de patógenos locales. No se han seleccionado buscando la productividad, como las semillas industriales, sino los usos y cualidades específicas que, por un lado, se ajusten a las exigencias del agrosistema y, por el otro, diversifiquen la base alimentaria de la sociedad tradicional. Son una herencia cultural de gran importancia que no debe desaparecer, al igual que las culturas y saberes tradicionales a las que van ligadas, ya que son fruto de una coevolución con la naturaleza. Las variedades tradicionales permiten a los agricultores y agricultoras recuperar el control sobre sus cultivos.

Los agricultores, agricultoras y redes de semillas participan activamente en su conservación, intercambio y uso en sus fincas, en la recuperación y difusión de los conocimientos campesinos sobre prácticas culturales y el manejo de agroecosistemas tradicionales, que representan un patrimonio irreemplazable y que irremisiblemente se está perdiendo en la actualidad. De igual modo las personas consumidoras participan, de forma activa, en muchos de los procesos a nivel local y territorial ligados a la recuperación de variedades locales3.

El contexto legislativo

A nivel internacional, la FAO, junto con los gobiernos de más de 130 países, puso en marcha en 2004 el Tratado Internacional sobre los Recursos Fitogenéticos para la Alimentación y la Agricultura (TIRFAA) que, en su artículo 9, defiende el Derecho de los agricultores a producir y vender sus propias semillas. En 2006, en el Estado español, se aprobó la Ley 30/2006 de semillas y plantas de vivero, que está vigente en la actualidad. Esta ley incorporó elementos del Tratado, abre las puertas a una regulación específica sobre el uso de los recursos fitogenéticos para su conservación in situ, por parte de agricultores y agricultoras. Además insta a las Administraciones Públicas a establecer mecanismos que:

  • faciliten la conservación, utilización y comercialización de las semillas cultivadas en sus fincas;

  • la protección de los conocimientos tradicionales;

  • y su participación en la adopción de decisiones sobre asuntos relativos a las variedades tradicionales y reparto de beneficios derivados del uso de los recursos fitogenéticos.

Lamentablemente, desde 2006 el Gobierno español no ha desarrollado ningún Reglamento técnico específico sobre recursos fitogenéticos que desarrolle estas cuestiones tan fundamentales para su uso sostenible y el respeto de los derechos de las comunidades campesinas. Esto viene impidiendo que las variedades locales estén presentes en los nuestros campos, y que los agricultores, especialmente los ecológicos, las puedan incorporar en sus ciclo productivo, lo que colabora al incesante incremento de la erosión genética de este material.

En mayo de 2013 la Comisión Europea presentó la Propuesta de Reglamento del Parlamento Europeo y del Consejo relativo a la producción y comercialización de los materiales de reproducción vegetal (Reglamento sobre materiales de reproducción vegetal – MRV) 4. Tras dos años de intenso trabajo de seguimiento por parte de redes de semillas y otros colectivos de diferentes países de Europa, en marzo de 2015 la Comisión Europea retiró la propuesta. Actualmente, todo apunta a que no se va a retomar en los años que le restan a este organismo europeo..

Las organizaciones que fomentamos el intercambio y venta de variedades locales como herramienta para su reintroducción en el sistema agroalimentario cuestionamos la utilidad de la normativa de semillas vigente. Nuestra preocupación se debe, entre otras cosas, al incremento de la pérdida de biodiversidad agrícola y a las restricciones impuestas a los propios agricultores y agricultoras, a usar y vender sus semillas de variedades locales. En el caso del Estado español, las diferentes trasposiciones han ido encaminadas a proteger el mercado de semillas y la apropiación privada de la biodiversidad cultivada, en detrimento de la conservación del patrimonio genético agrícola común; y a establecer trabas a las iniciativas de uso e intercambio de variedades en peligro de erosión genética, en vez de facilitar su cultivo a través un marco normativo más amable. Además, no debemos olvidar que el Estado español es el único en la Unión Europea que cultiva transgénicos a escala comercial, lo que compromete la gestión dinámica y sostenible de las variedades locales y su propia integridad. En este sentido exigimos la puesta en marcha instrumentos jurídicos para llegar a una agricultura, ganadería, transformación, distribución y consumo libre de transgénicos.

Propuestas y peticiones

Desde la Campaña “Cultiva diversidad. Siembra tus derechos” instamos al Gobierno Español a poner en marcha las políticas necesarias para hacer efectivos los Derechos de los agricultores y agricultoras a conservar, utilizar y comercializar variedades tradicionales. Estos recursos genéticos agrícolas deben poder formar parte de sus medios de vida.

Pretendemos inducir un cambio en normas jurídicas y en las políticas gubernamentales que consideramos injustas a la luz de los principios que rigen nuestra vida social, y con los fundamentos constitucionales del Estado democrático.

Por ello, promovemos y manifestamos nuestro apoyo firme a la autogestión de la producción y venta de semillas por parte de los propios agricultores y agricultoras y las iniciativas campesinas de producción artesanal como un acto público, no violento, consciente y político, contrario a la ley, cometido con el propósito de ocasionar el cambio en la legislación y la actuación del gobierno. Actuando de este modo apelamos al sentido de justicia social y ambiental, y declaramos que, según nuestra opinión, los principios de la cooperación social entre personas que hacen posible el pleno derecho a la alimentación no están siendo respetados. Las variedades tradicionales son un recurso esencial para obtener alimentos sanos, respetando el ambiente mediante el uso correcto de los recursos naturales, potenciando la cultura rural, los valores éticos y la calidad de vida, por lo que es imprescindible devolver estas variedades a los campos de las personas productoras y a los platos de las consumidoras.

Pedimos que se defienda el conocimiento campesino, y muy especialmente el relacionado con el uso sostenible de biodiversidad agrícola. Estos saberes son indispensable para evitar la degradación de la cultura local en sus aspectos productivos, culinarios y gastronómicos, de usos de la tierra y de conformación de paisajes. Por eso solicitamos que en el Inventario Nacional de los Conocimientos Tradicionales que elabora el Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente (MAGRAMA), que se ha circunscrito a las plantas silvestres, se incluyan las cultivadas.

Además, instamos al Gobierno español a que desarrolle mecanismos políticos, administrativos y legales que apoyen la gestión dinámica de las variedades locales en el marco de una agricultura campesina. En particular:

  • El respeto la venta directa de sus semillas por parte de agricultores y agricultoras como complemento de su actividad. Esta actividad debe quedar fuera del ámbito de aplicación de la legislación de semillas y debe estar exenta de las mismas exigencias que el resto de operadores.

  • Las microempresas artesanales que producen y comercializan semillas de variedades locales necesitan reglas adaptadas a su actividad, completamente diferente a la que realizan las grandes empresas de semillas de producciones deslocalizadas y distribución kilométrica.

  • Es necesario fomentar el uso de variedades locales a través de nuevos marcos normativos que posibiliten la comercialización de sus semillas, reconociendo su heterogeneidad y capacidad de adaptación como características positivas y de necesaria valorización. Así mismo, deben crearse mecanismos que agilicen la utilización de estas variedades en la agricultura ecológica, siendo éste tipo de producción un espacio inmejorable para su utilización.

  • Las personas productoras y consumidoras deben tener la posibilidad de elegir los alimentos que consumen y las plantas que cultivan. Demandamos transparencia en los métodos de selección utilizados para generar las variedades y la propiedad intelectual que gestiona su uso. Esta información debe constar obligatoriamente en el etiquetado.

Fuente: http://fundacionhuerquehue.cl

Fuente: http://fundacionhuerquehue.cl

 

Promotores de la Campaña

Red estatal de Semillas “Resembrando e Intercambiando” (Coordinadora estatal que aglutina a las siguientes entidades: Centro Zahoz (junto con sus entidades Red de Guardianes de Semillas y la Asociación para el Desarrollo y Estudio de la Agroecología) (Castilla León), CIFAES-Universidad Paulo Freire Tierra de Campos (Castilla León), Xarxa Catalana de Graners (Catalunya), Gaiadea – Les Refardes (Catalunya), Esporus – L´Era (Catalunya), Ecollavors (Catalunya), Triticatum (Catalunya), Llavors d´Ací (Pais Valencià), Asociación Albar (Pais Valencià), Associació de Varietats Locals de les Illes Balears (Illes Balears), Asociación APAEM – Banc de Llavors de Menorca (Illes Balears), Red de Semillas de La Rioja (La Rioja), Red Extremeña de Semillas (Extremadura), Red Canaria de Semillas (Canarias), Red de Semillas de Cantabria (Cantabria), Red de Semillas de La Palma (Canarias), Red de Semillas de Gran Canaria (Canarias), Rede Sementes Galega (Galiza), Red Andaluza de Semillas “Cultivando Biodiversidad” (Andalucía), Red de Semillas de Aragón (Aragón), Nafarroako Hazien Sarea – Red de Semillas de Navarra (Navarra), Red Murciana de Semillas (Región de Murcia), Red de Agroecología y Ecodesarrollo de la Región de Murcia (Región de Murcia), Biltar (Asturias) y Euskal Erico Hazien Sarea – Red de Semillas de Euskadi (Euskadi).

1 Son variedades originadas por un proceso de mejora que han practicado los agricultores y agricultoras a través de métodos tradicionales desde los orígenes de la agricultura hasta nuestros días. Gracias a este proceso continuo de mejora, estas variedades de cultivo están adaptadas a las actuales condiciones locales de clima y suelo y presentan resistencias frente a plagas, enfermedades y condiciones edafoclimáticas difíciles. Además permiten la autogestión de la producción, ya que agricultores y agricultoras ganan independencia y autonomía al poder seleccionar sus propias semillas e ir adaptándolas a sus necesidades, sin tener que comprarlas anualmente. Estas variedades están presentes en la cultura y gastronomía campesina y tradicional ya que desde hace miles de años forman parte de los hábitos de alimentación de los lugares donde se cultivan (RAS 2011a).

2 Son variedades de cultivo que aglutinan las variedades de dominio público, variedades locales / tradicionales y variedades comerciales descatalogadas, todas ellas de polinización abierta obtenidas a través de método de mejora convencional (RAS 2011a).

3 En el presente texto se recogerán las menciones “locales, antiguas, autóctonas, campesinas y del país”, para citar a las variedades tradicionales.

4 Propuesta de Reglamento del Parlamento Europeo y del Consejo relativo a la producción y comercialización de los materiales de reproducción vegetal (Reglamento sobre materiales de reproducción vegetal). 06-05-2013. COM (2013) 262 final – 2013/0137 (COD). En línea: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2013:0262:FIN:ES:PDF

 

 

 

IPES-Food: 10 principles to guide the transition to Sustainable Food Systems

The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) is a new transdisciplinary initiative to support, inform and advise the policy debate on how to reform food systems across the world. This is a new panel guided by new ways of thinking about research, sustainability and food systems. The panel is co-chaired by Olivier De Schutter (former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food) and Olivia Yambi (nutritionist and former UNICEF representative to Kenya). The Panel brings together different disciplines and different types of knowledge, comprising environmental scientists, development economists, nutritionists, agronomists and sociologists, as well as experienced practitioners from civil society and social movements.

This diversity reflects the holistic approach of IPES-Food, based around a broad definition of sustainability that covers not only environmental sustainability, but also social equity and adequate nutrition dimensions. It approaches food systems from farm to fork and encompasses processing, packaging, waste and producer-consumer feedback loops. The approach of IPES-Food values local knowledge and the experience of social actors in exploring pathways for transition, as well as taking into account power relations and the political economy of food systems. Its working methods are based on participatory mechanisms and recognize the need for scientific experts to collaborate with actors across food systems in order to produce policy-relevant knowledge.

canvi climàtic pages

The first report of the panel has been called “The new science of sustainable food systems. Overcoming barriers to food systems reform“, and was launched in May 2015. Moreover, the panel has also identified 10 key principles to guide the urgently-needed transition to sustainable food systems:

What types of knowledge and analysis are needed to support the transition?
– Holistic & systemic. Hunger, obesity, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, the pressures on smallholder livelihoods, cultural erosion, workforce exploitation and other problems in food systems are deeply inter-connected. Holistic thinking is needed in order to identify systemic ‘lock-ins’, and to find integrated solutions and potential levers of
change.
– Power-sensitive. Analysis of food systems must not ignore the differential power of actors to influence decision-making
and to set the terms of debate for reform. Power relations and the political economy of food systems must take center-stage.
Transdisciplinary. Knowledge must be co-produced with farmers, food industry workers, consumers, entrepreneurs, and other social actors and movements who hold unique understanding of food systems. Actors from fields such as public health, environment and rural development also have much to contribute to the debate on food systems reform.
Critically engaged. Producer organizations, retailers and other actors in food chains must be fully engaged in defining and developing sustainable food systems. The interests of some private sector actors, in particular multinational agribusiness firms, have typically been aligned with existing political arrangements, e.g. policies favoring export-led production systems for bulk commodities and processed foods. This makes it all the more challenging, and all the more necessary, to critically engage agribusiness firms in the debate.
Independent. Science and knowledge cannot be made to fit within the parameters set by dominant actors: IPES-Food is
a fully independent panel, without financial or organizational ties to any corporations, governments, intergovernmental
agencies or advocacy groups.

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What principles and values should underpin the sustainable food systems of the future?
Sustainable in all dimensions. Sustainability must be the benchmark of food systems reform, and must include environmental, health, social , cultural and economic dimensions. Sustainable food systems must deliver diets that are nutritious, affordable and culturally acceptable ii , and must provide food security without compromising the ability of future generations to do so iii .
Diverse & resilient. Food systems must be fundamentally reoriented around principles of diversity, multi – functionality and resilience. This shift is required in agriculture in order to sustain yields and agro-ecosystems in the longer-term, and must be complemented by diversity in supply chains and markets in order to support diverse and nutritious diets . As an embodiment of these principles, agroecology must be fully supported.
Democratic & empowering. Decision-making in food systems must be democratized in ways that empower disadvantaged actors and help to realize the human rights of all , including the right to food. Access to these processes must not depend on gender, age, ethnicity or wealth. The needs and perspectives of small – scale farmers, indigenous communities, disadvantaged consumers and other groups must not be drowned out by more powerful and visible actors.
Socially & technologically innovative. The transition to sustainable food systems requires complex and holistic change processes in which social innovation plays as big a role as technological innovation, and extends to food distribution and retail practices, as well as modes of production. The impacts of innovation pathways should not be assumed to be only benevolent, and should be continually assessed.
Adequately measured. New indicators of progress must be developed in order to capture the benefits of equitable, resilient, diverse, nutrient-rich food systems in ways that productivity growth, net calorie availability and other existing measures do not. Efforts and initiatives to improve the sustainability of food systems should be assessed with a view to seeing continuous improvement; accountability must be clearly assigned in order to hold actors to their commitments.
What do you think about these principles? How do you think they could be implemented?

 

The organic sector urges the Commission to classify new genetic engineering techniques as GMOs: Press release by IFOAM Europe

IFOAM Europe just released the following press release.

The organic sector urges the Commission to classify new genetic engineering techniques as GMOs

plant breeding

BRUSSELS, 14 January 2016 – IFOAM EU has published a position paper on new genetic engineering techniques, ahead of the legal interpretation of the European Commission, expected by March 2016. The European organic food and farming sector considers that there are no legal or technical reasons to bypass the GMO legislation and to exempt these new breeding techniques from risk assessment and other legal requirements that apply to GMOs, and warns of severe economic consequences if some of these techniques are deregulated by the European Commission.

“New techniques bearing the same potential risks as the GMOs currently on the market should not be used in organic farming nor released into the environment, even less be exempted from risk assessment and traceability”, warns Christopher Stopes, IFOAM EU President.

“Any attempt to exempt these new genetic engineering techniques from risk assessment, traceability and labelling would create havoc on the food, feed and seeds markets, and would backfire like the attempt to introduce GMOs in Europe backfired 20 years ago”, adds Thomas Fertl, IFOAM EU Vice-President.

“The Commission could let consumers and the market decide, but the right to choose can only exist if there is a traceability and labelling system in place, like for currently labelled GMOs. Without traceability, it would be impossible to know if and where such products would be in the environment and in the food chain”, he adds.

“We need innovation in the plant breeding sector and new agronomic approaches that make the most of the diversity of plant genetic resources, but innovation does not have to resort to genetic engineering techniques that can lead to unpredictable side effects, and whose benefits will mainly go the companies that will market them”, adds Eric Gall, IFOAM EU Policy Manager.

The so-called “new plant breeding techniques” addressed in the position paper, such as cisgenesis or CRISPR/Cas, interfere at the sub-cellular and genomic level. Therefore, IFOAM EU considers that they would not be compatible with the principles of organic farming and that they should not be used in organic farming.

Deregulation of new breeding techniques would threaten the freedom of choice of breeders, farmers and consumers. If some of these new techniques are excluded from the scope of the legislation on GMOs, the organic sector would face a situation where genetic modification techniques excluded from organic farming could be released into the environment and the food chain while being exempt from any traceability and labelling requirements.

Read the new IFOAM EU position paper

For more information please contact:

Eric Gall, Policy Manager
+32 (0) 2 280 68 43 / +32 491 07 25 37, [email protected]

Laura Ullmann, Communications Manager
+32 (0)2 808 7991 / +32 (0) 486 88 52 12, [email protected]

Or visit www.ifoam-eu.org