Upholding its core principle of being a farmer-led network, farmer-to-farmer seed exchange has been one of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura or MASIPAG integral activity during its triennial General Assembly. Last week, the network’s wide membership of farmers, scientists, non-government organizations, and allies had once again met to discuss, strengthen, and celebrate the network’s growing resolve in forwarding a farmer-led agriculture and fighting for a just and humane society.
MASIPAG and its Seeds of Resistance
The importance of seeds is primary for nourishment, with seeds consisting of large amounts of starch, protein, and oil, seeds locate themselves as a vital part of the development of animals, plants, and humans. Seeds are as well utilized in a myriad of production mostly in food sources for humans, and livestock among others.
More than the technicalities of biology and nutrition, seeds also mediate in the realm of sociality with seeds regarded as a common resource; assure food security of the community, influence communal decisions with regards to land utilization and food production, trading of goods, etc, and thus ingraining itself with countless social, cultural, and political narratives as human civilization progress through time. Countless varieties adapting to different local conditions have also sprouted due to the active engagement and development of farmers across the world.
While farmer-to-farmer seed exchange has been a millennia-old practice observed in many agricultural countries around the world, particularly in the Philippines, the entry of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its Green Revolution, and entities pushing for the patenting of life such as the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), it has now been criminalized in many regions where farmers, mostly indigenous and small farmers are now deemed as criminals.
Moreover, as GMOs proliferated, the national government facilitated intellectual property rights (IPR) laws on seeds and other technologies to protect the investments of agri-corporations. Member nations of the World Trade Organizations (WTO) have been obligated to pass legislation that would comply with its agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).
As a means to resist the patenting of life brought by these entities, MASIPAG has been staunchly promoting and practicing farmer-led participatory conservation and improvement of seeds, planting materials, and animals through breeding and selection–agriculture that strives to adhere to the principles of agroecology as part of farmer empowerment agenda and political struggle against agro-transnational corporations.
Finally, tackling social and political aspects of seeds and biodiversity are also crucial to resist corporate capture; promoting indigenous seed resource centers at community levels, and strengthening and resisting repressive policies that do not favor the farmer-led seed system both at the local, national, and international level.