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Seeds of Freedom | Common Dreams, Vandana Shiva

Seeds of Freedom | Common Dreams

For thousands of years farmers, especially women, have evolved and
bred seed freely with the help of nature to increase the diversity of
what nature gave us and adopt it to the needs of different cultures.
Biodiversity and cultural diversity have mutually shaped one another.

Every seed is an embodiment of millennia of nature’s evolution and
centuries of farmers’ breeding. It is the distilled expression of the
intelligence of the earth and intelligence of farming communities.
Farmers have bred seeds for diversity, resilience, taste, nutrition,
health and to adapt it for local agro-ecosystems.

In times of climate change we need the biodiversity of farmers’
varieties to adapt and evolve. Climate extremes are being experienced
through more frequent and intense cyclones that bring salt water to the
land. To develop resilience against cyclones, we need salt tolerant
varieties of seeds, and we need them in the commons. Along coastal
areas, farmers have evolved flood tolerant and salt tolerant varieties
of rice such as Bhundi, Kalambank, Lunabakada, Sankarchin, Nalidhulia,
Ravana, Seulapuni, Dhosarakhuda.

"By adding one new gene to the cell of a
plant, corporations claimed they had invented and created the seed, the
plant, and all future seeds that were now their property. In other words
GMO meant 'God Move Over.'"

These seeds have been evolved by farmers and need to stay in the commons to gain resilience against climate change.

After the Orissa Supercyclone, Navdanya could distribute salt
tolerant rice to farmers because we had conserved them as a commons in
our community seed bank run by Kusum Mishra and Dr Ashok Panigrahi in
Balasore, Orissa. Hence we were about to donate two truckloads of salt
tolerant seeds to the farmers, who could not grow rice because of the
sea salt deposited on their farms. As I have written in my book—Soil, Not Oil—40
per cent of the greenhouse gases come from an industrialised and
globalised model of agriculture. Having created the crisis,
corporations, who made profits from industrial agriculture, now want to
turn the climate crisis they have contributed to into an opportunity to
control climate resilient seeds and climate data. Corporations like
Monsanto have taken 1,500 patents on climate resilient crops. With these
very broad patents, Monsanto and other corporations can prevent access
to climate resilient seeds after climate disasters since a patent is an
exclusive right to produce, distribute and sell the patented product.
This implies that the farmers’ right to save and share seed is now
defined as “theft,” an “intellectual property crime”...n times of climate change, such monopolies aggravate the disaster by blocking farmers’ rights to seeds they have evolved.

Hence, seed as a common good became a commodity of private seed companies, traded on the open market....

The vision of the corporations and sadly the US government is to
privatise every aspect of life — our seeds and biodiversity, the
atmospheric commons, and the knowledge of the climate and weather as a
public good.

At a time when the world needs to recognise that life forms,
including seeds, are not an invention and the US should correct its laws
to be more in alignment with the Rights of the Earth and with human
rights, the US government is threatening India with trade retaliation to
force us to change our patent laws yet again and introduce the
unethical, unscientific and anti-human laws of patent monopolies on seed
and medicine.

America’s National Association of Manufacturers — which represents
about 50 US business groups — gave the suggestion to the US Trade
Representatives’ office to designate India a “Priority Foreign Country”,
a tag it gives to worst offenders of intellectual property rights. This
is not just a US-India dispute. It is a fight against corporate
enclosures of the commons. If we have to survive as a species, we need
to reclaim our commons — of seed, of climate, of knowledge and resist
the privatisation of every aspect of life.

We need to create the commons of the seed and cultivate seed freedom
through seed saving, seed exchange and participatory breeding.

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