Seeds and sovereignty

Some days ago I was invited to participate in a seminar organised by the Xarxa de Consum Solidari and other civil society organisations linked to the food sovereignty and the agroecological movement in Catalonia. The seminar posed a very interesting question, that forced me to think on seeds and GMOs beyond my “comfort zone”: how a food sovereignty agenda should be included in the new Catalan constitution?

In the midst of a very hectic political moment in Catalonia, the political agenda for 2017 includes, in principle, the start of a constituent process to create new political and social models. Many questions remain unanswered. To what extent this constitutes a real opportunity for a grass-root movement to get involved and participate to guarantee deep social change is still to be seen. In despite of all these doubts, I thought it was for sure appealing to engage in a dialogue exercise for enhancing the imagination and discussion of the practical implications of a food sovereignty agenda.

In order to answer this challenge, the seminar counted with the participation of several social movements campaigning for food sovereignty and the right to food, politicians and lawyers that have actively participated in the discussions of constituent processes which included food sovereignty in other countries, and also representatives of different political parties and movements.

In particular, I participated in a round-table on how essential aspects of food sovereignty – such as the right to food or the access to seeds, land and water – can be part of a new constitution. The experience in Ecuador, shared by Alberto Acosta and Mario Aparicio, was very inspiring, arguing in favor of focusing not only on the proposals and contents (articulated as “spaces of possibilities”) but also on the processes themselves. I presented my talk on seeds and GMOs jointly with Ester Cases from Refardes, a project aiming at the conservation of the cultivated agrobiodiversity in Catalonia. I did a short introduction explaining the situation to the access to heirloom seeds globally and in particular in Catalonia while Ester focused on the legal aspects and concrete proposals made by Red de Semillas.

Although the public was rather scarce, the open discussion was focused on the possibilities of  both implementing a local policy based on our own food sovereignty, and accessing seeds based on the peasants’ rights. This led to acknowledge some of the opportunities and challenges of having a commons framework in the midst of the global international trade flows. Is it possible to be sovereign while being immersed in a capitalist economy? What kind of realistic proposals can we make? Which are our degrees of freedom? What is the role of the social movements?

Although the challenges are huge, to participate in this open discussion was really interesting for me, and also it was an opportunity to let the dreams flow and reflect on what kind of society -and consequently what kind of agri-food system- we want for the future.

Gatekeepers of the maize web: dryers and silos

During our research we have repeatedly discussed how important dryers and silos are as part of the necessary  infrastructure in agri-food networks (see also previous post about the network of Spanish silos and our latest paper). In this entry I aim to share some of these thoughts with you.

Infrastructure is a major element of the global economy and manages the mobility of human and nonhuman entities through physical support facilities. In the case of commercial maize crops in Spain, since practically all maize is processed, dryers and silos become essential facilities to sustain the journey of maize through the agri-food system, specifically once it has been harvested in the fields and before it is sold to maize processing companies. The drying of the grains is a key activity for creating conditions for a good storage and further processing.

Dryer and silo infrastructure is very often found together in Spanish farmer cooperatives (which are at the heart of the Spanish maize production system). This means that, in order to dry it and store it, these cooperatives mix different types of maize produced in their surroundings. It is expensive to effectively separate GM, conventional and organic maize, so if there is some GM maize in the mix, the usual practice is that all maize is labelled as GM maize. In fact, we found that only a minority of farmer cooperatives in Aragon restrict the use of GM in their facilities and there are no specific dryers for organic maize either in Catalonia or Aragon.

Therefore these infrastructures exert a tremendous amount of power over both the possibilities for maize (e.g. for becoming an organic product for human consumption) and for the existence of different agri-food systems. Dryer and silos therefore act as a kind of gatekeeper in the journey of maize through the agri-food system.

Some organic maize farmers in Aragon have told us how the lack of existance of specific organic dryers is a huge problem for them, because it means they might have to invest more in finding an alternative, such as increasing transport costs to find a dryer in a different area that handles organic maize specifically; hiring a mobile dryer to come to them (which is more expensive), or try to dry the grain in the field (the viability of which is uncertain and subject to weather conditions).

Thus, it could be said that dryers and silos are political actants, as these infrastructures have a significant capacity for shaping both social and ecological realities in rural areas. They facilitate the existence (or lack of existance) of some forms of agri/culture over others, and can trigger explicit or latent conflicts among different agri/culture systems. For instance, one of the stories we were told was about a conflict between a farmer cooperative engaged in producing, drying and storing non-GM maize for human consumption and a local animal feed company. The former had been developing a strategy for convincing its members to not sow GM maize by ensuring them higher economic benefits. That meant that most of the local farmers were sowing non-GM maize for human consumption instead of GM maize for animal feed production. So the animal feed company tried to convince the farmers to return to GM maize by internalising and covering the drying costs, thus making it cheaper for farmers if they would grow GM maize.

Do you know of other rural stories in which infrastructure can be political?

Impressions from our Stakeholders Seminar

As part of our project, during the 31st January and 1st February 2017 we held a stakeholders seminar in Tromsø, Norway on the topic: ‘Social and ‘Ethical Assessment in the Regulation of GMOs: Should we care?’

This two-day seminar aimed to explore the potential of a care ethics approach for social and ethical assessment in the regulation of GMOs. The objectives of the seminar were to a) better understand societal concerns and advance a systems approach for regulating GMOs, b) explore the extent to which a care ethics approach may provide useful guidance for operationalising the Norwegian Gene Technology Act and its requirement to assess sustainability, benefits to society and ethical justifiability, and c) to produce a short biosafety brief on the topic. Invited participants had a diverse range of profiles and interests in the issue, including farmers, processors, Norwegian regulators, consumer and environmental organisations, certification bodies and academic researchers.

After some introductory exercises that helped creating a friendly atmosphere, the first day focused on the presentation of perspectives and experiences from stakeholders in Spain, South Africa and Norway. We tried to innovate with the format, incorporating a very stimulating exercise after these presentations called “Collective Story Harvest“. Some of the academic researchers who were not asked to make any presentation were given instructions prior to the beginning of the seminar. Their role was to listen to the stakeholders experiential stories from the point of view of a specific theme we gave them. We chose 5 themes that are relevant for a care ethics framework: power, vulnerability, dependence, emotion and narrative. After listening to all the presentations, these participants shared with the rest of the group their lens analysis. They contributed to understand how these 5 concepts were enacted throughout the stories.

We learnt that power, vulnerability and dependencies were embedded in the structural aspects of the agri-food systems regarding, for example, the risk of GM contamination, the existence or inexistence of the necessary logistical facilities and even the way governance facilitates access to information. The latter aspect was actually key in many of the talks. Information and power are two sides of the same coin and lack of information availability regarding where GM crops are determines vulnerability and dependency. While paying attention to who is vulnerable, a participant noted those who take an alternative view to industrialised agriculture are definitely key victims, but also traditional crops and biodiversity. This is to say that not just people (such as farmers or citizens) are vulnerable  to the kind of choices that are being made through these power structures, but also ecosystems. She also noted the contextual nature of vulnerability, as South Africa and Spain (where GM crops are part of the rural realities) were clearly more vulnerable contexts than Norway.

Additionally, we also learnt about what role emotions can play in scientific analysis. Although the tendency is to think that emotion is the polar opposite of science, it is important to break these conventional boundaries and recognise that science is actually riddled with emotions. This recognition does not mean that we disregard science. It means that it is important to recognise that emotions are part of the realities studied by science and play a role in the stories. In fact, emotions were everywhere that day, channelled through words, images and non-verbal communication. For example, anger due to injustice came up in many different ways although was rarely directly expressed. One of the moments it was most present was during the description of the great difficulties organic farmers face to avoid GM contamination. Contrastingly, in a Norwegian presentation there was a picture of a consumer representative wearing a T-shirt with the following moto: “We Love the Norwegian Gene Technology Act”, representing how proud (and happy) certain Norwegians are about their current biotechnology legislation.

After this insightful exercise, we also had an intervention from policy making participants who also gave their thoughts on what the stakeholder participant experiences meant from a policy perspective. These participants highlighted how useful was for them to learn from experiences in countries that actually grow GMOs.

The second day focused on exploring the potential relevance of a care ethics approach for capturing the experiences and relevant issues we heard during the first day and incorporating these into regulatory assessment. We talked for hours and are currently preparing a policy brief on the topic that will be made public in some weeks.

As well as the good intellectual work, the workshop was also fun for networking and connecting with people. After the first day of work, we tried to chase the whales and the Northern Lights in an electric boat. Unfortunately, we did not succeed in this last mission but everyone enjoyed our time together and learnt a lot.


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?

Confusing statistics regarding GM maize in Spain


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.

Talk on maize for human consumption in Lleida (Catalonia – Spain)


On Wednesday 4th May the Agri/Cultures Project attended a talk on maize for human consumption (aka non-GM maize) in Lleida. Below you can read a short chronicle of this experience.

Everything began when Comú de Lleida, a political group from the city of Lleida, suggested the agricultural land around Lleida be declared GM-free. Farmers from the area (where GM maize is widely cultivated) who are very concerned about what this suggestion could entail, responded that non-GM maize did not actually offer many opportunities for them. El Comú de Lleida organised a talk about why some farmers choose to sow non-GM maize and the commercial possibilities that this maize could offer. They invited two main speakers from the neighboring region of Aragon, a  farmer from the farmers cooperative Joaquin Costa, in the neighbouring region of Aragon, and a representative from Liven Agro, one of the main companies producing non-GM maize in that neighbouring region too. The audience was made up of approximately 30 farmers, including several representatives of the main agrarian trade unions.

The company representative gave a commercial presentation about how they are encouraging farmers to produce non-GM maize for them. They pay more for non-GM maize and they also offer monitoring, harvesting machinery and transport vehicles for free. According to this representative, this was encouraging farmers to embrace non-GM maize production and work with them.

The trade union representatives, on the other hand, while opposing the GM-free initiative, were pointing out that in the fields ‘there was room for everyone’ and that decisions on whether cultivating GM or non-GM should only be driven by economic criteria.


Juanjo Mallén, farmer from the cooperative Joaquin Costa

To me, the best intervention by far was Juanjo Mallen, from the farmer cooperative Joaquin Costa. He told us the story of his cooperative and how it’s approach had evolved regarding GM maize. As a cooperative, they embraced and started producing GM maize when it was first introduced, in 1998. After some years, while distrusting the GM hype, they started developing their own agricultural trials and realised that GM varieties are not actually more productive than non-GM varieties. During this process they also increasingly informed themselves on the scientific controversies and uncertainties surrounding GM crops. And as a result (and because there was a company willing to buy non-GM maize), they decided to produce non-GM maize. It has really worked well for them. He pointed out that non-GM maize varieties are more inclusive because it is not true that ‘there is room for everyone’. Non-GM maize, and especially organic maize, can suffer the consequences of GM contamination and lose a market, or a certification. In fact, he mentioned that wherever there is GM maize, organic maize disappears. By focusing on non-GM maize, he added, some of the farmers of his cooperative could aspire to produce organic maize again, which was very good news.

Lastly, he pointed out that it was important to realise the paradigmatic differences implied in the different ways of understanding and doing agriculture that were being discussed. One prioritised more isolation and controllability of the different parts of the agricultural ecosystem and the other valued more interconnection and interdependency. To give an example, he told us how his own perception of weeds had changed from seeing them as something undesirable to be eradicated to considering them as a bio-indicator of the agricultural ecosystem. His point of view is that, more research and more political will should be encouraged in order to explore and promote ways of farming without agro-toxics.

In the end, I don’t think it is likely that the agricultural land around Lleida will be declared GM-free, as many farmers were still not convinced, but it was an interesting debate in which it was obvious that there was a clash between antagonistic cultures of agriculture.

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.




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:




¡Hemos participado en un documental!

Pablo amb la càmera

Durante los últimos meses que hemos pasado haciendo trabajo de campo, hemos estado a menudo detrás de la cámara. Sin embargo, recientemente también hemos tenido la oportnidad de cambiar nuestro rol, ya que también hemos participado junto a muchas otros expertos en un documental para el programa Latituds del Canal 33. El programa se titula “Dependencia o Soberanía Alimentaria

Aquí podéis encontrar un breve resumen del contenido:

“El sistema alimentario actual se basa en la producción intensiva para la exportación. Esto lleva a una creciente dependencia del mercado global, cada vez más concentrado en grandes empresas vinculadas al sector financiero. Otro sistema alimentario surge con el principio de la Soberanía Alimentaria. Plantea que son los pueblos los que tienen que decidir su modelo de alimentación, priorizando la calidad de los alimentos y los mercados de proximidad.

Así mismo surgen bancos de semillas locales que, sin ánimo de lucro, conservan variedades tradicionales, que a menudo no se encuentran en el mercado. Son semillas locales que los campesinos y campesinas pueden reproducir, a diferencia de lo que pasa con muchas semillas comerciales, y que por su diversidad genética están muy bién adaptadas al territorio. Mucho/as consideran que en el marco de la creciente degradación de los suelos y del clima, de aquí a unas décadas las semillas locales serán las que garantizarán la alimentación”

Y aquí podéis ver el documental (en catalán).


We participated in a TV documentary!

grabació a Joaquin Costa

During the last months of fieldwork, we have been very often behind the camera. However, we also recently had the opportunity to change our role, and participated as experts in a TV documentary produced by Canal 33 (a Catalan public TV channel) titled “Dependency or Food Sovereignty“.

Here you can find a short summary:

“The documentary describes the dependency of the Catalan food system on imports for the production of feed for intensively produced animals, which are then exported. This involves a growing dependency on the global market, and a concentration of power in huge companies linked to the financial market. This trend is counterbalanced by another food system based on the principles of Food Sovereignty. In this system, the people decide on their own food model, giving priority to the quality of food and local markets.”

And here you can watch the documentary (only in Catalan).

Strategies for keeping feed free from GMOs


Last week Amaranta and I attended a roundtable and a thematic workshop on GM-free feedstuff for organic and non-GM sectors organised by IFOAM EU in Ulm, Germany. The events gathered key stakeholders along the organic and GM-free feed value chain, from farmers to retailers, but also taking into account certifiers, researchers, policy-makers and advisors or consumers’ associations with the objective to find strategies for increasing the availability of GM-free feed in Europe. The activities are part of the project Keeping GMOs out of food coordinated by IFOAM EU aiming to strengthen the capacity of organic and conventional sectors in Europe to stay GMO-free.

Europe is highly dependent on inputs from third countries for fulfilling the internal demand for feedstock, a problem which is aggravated in the organic sector. In this sense, major changes in production are required (including the introduction or re-introduction of alternative and/or traditional protein sources and/or the reduction of livestock). In this context, I did a presentation on the situation in Spain, which is highly aggravated by the very difficult coexistence between GM and non-GM maize, which is almost impossible for organic maize in the GM maize producing areas (e.g. Catalonia and Aragon) (Binimelis, 2009). Besides the consequences for food sovereignty, the environmental impacts connected to the importation of millions of tonnes of soy and maize (among other crops) are also high, especially since agriculture – and the transport of commodities worldwide – is a key source of greenhouse emissions and a depletion of energy resources.


I found it a very interesting and strategic initative to bring together stakeholders from both the organic and conventional production systems in order to share their main challenges for the production of GM free feed, but also for defining common strategies to face common problems, to increase availability of GM-free feed and to better communicate to the consumer which are the systems (and the values associated to them) that he or she is contributing to when choosing a product at the shop shelves. We had very interesting debates on aspects such as the pros and cons of establishing GMO-free labels (as exist in many European countries like France or Germany not only for the GM products themselves but also for the animal derivatives (e.g. eggs or milk) from animals fed with GMOs), and the possibility to harmonise the standards of the different national labels. Can the organic and conventional sector agree on a common strategy on labeling taking into account that the organic production is not using GMOs by definition? Would such a label induce the consumer to think that conventional products labelled as non-GM do not contain GMOs but organic products do?

PicMonkey Collage etiquetatge

We also had enlightening discussions on the conventionalisation of organic agriculture and the risks this poses for losing the essence of its character by leaving aside values such as simplicity, localising production in both spacial and social terms, trust or transparency.