Back in January we blogged about an important new seed law passed in Venezuela banning GMOs and protecting local seed varieties. On the eve of International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22, 2016), we just heard that this law, one of the most progressive to date, is under attack.

As a response, many organizations, farmers and researchers have signed onto a statement of solidarity for Venezuela’s new seed law (see full text below). If this is an issue that concerns you, your can add your name to the list of signatories, by email at cmsfoodsovereignty@gmail.com. You will need to include how you would like to be listed (name, affiliation, country). Note: There is also a version in Spanish available.

 

Statement of International Solidarity with Venezuela’s Seed Law

On December 23 2015, Venezuela’s national assembly passed a new seed law banning the import, production, and planting of GMO seeds and protecting the production and free exchange of seed varieties of Venezuela’s farming communities (Indigenous, peasant, and Afro-descendant) among other provisions. The law is significant both for its content and for the process through which it was passed.

The banning of GMOs follows the precautionary principle in that the effects of transgenic technology are not yet fully understood and what has been documented thus far in terms of impacts on human health and the environment raises significant concerns. These are in addition to concerns over socio-economic and human rights impacts on the small-scale producers who make up the majority of the world’s hungry. Special protection for locally adapted seeds recognizes the importance of local conservation for maintaining maximum genetic diversity, increasingly important for building resiliency in the face of climate change. Additionally, the law is a product of bottom-up policy-making, resulting from a three-year process in which social movements opposed an industry-backed seed law. Instead they pushed for more transformative legislation, holding a series of participatory public consultations throughout the country to develop an alternative.

The passage of the law thus marks a historic win for agroecology and food sovereignty movements in Venezuela and beyond. It is perhaps one of the few national laws in the world which guarantees and protects the right of peasants to seeds. However, despite widespread domestic support and the international interest it has garnered, the law is under attack by industry representatives and their supporters for being “anti-scientific.” This places the seed law at risk of being overturned by the current national assembly, which has had an opposition majority since January of this year.

As scientists, practitioners and advocates involved in food and agriculture, we question the grounds for such attacks. The thrust of the law toward a prioritization of agroecological farming practices is in keeping with a mounting scientific consensus of the importance of a shift from conventional to ecologically-based agricultural systems that value the knowledge of local food producers and involve them in decision-making. This has been emphasized, for instance, in the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) developed by 400 of the world’s leading experts and endorsed by 59 countries.

We are therefore following the emerging struggle over the law and its implementation with great interest, not only for its implications for Venezuela, but for its broader implications in the face of increasing corporate consolidation of the genetic resources critical for present and future food security and food sovereignty. We stand with the food producers, scientists, and grassroots movements in Venezuela urging the National Assembly to maintain the integrity of this law and to support its full implementation.

  • Jack Kloppenburg, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison and founder, Open Source Seed Initiative, USA

  • Sofia Monsalve, Secretary General, FIAN International

  • Frances Moore Lappé, Small Planet Institute, USA

  • Miguel Altieri, Professor, University of California Berkeley, USA

  • Fred Magdoff, Professor Emeritus, Plant and Soil Science, University of Vermont, USA

  • Philip McMichael, Professor, Cornell University, USA

  • Ian Scoones, Professor, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK

  • Eric Holt-Giménez, Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy, USA

  • Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Professor, Wageningen University, Netherlands

  • Frederick Mills, Professor, Bowie State University, USA

  • Anna Lappé, Small Planet Institute, USA

  • Jennifer Clapp, Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and Sustainability and Professor, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo, Canada

  • Ivette Perfecto, Professor, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, USA

  • Juliette Majot, Executive Director, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA

  • Sophia Murphy, Researcher and Scholar, University of British Columbia, Canada

  • Alastair Iles, Professor, University of California Berkeley, USA

  • Susanna Hecht, Professor, Luskin School of Public Affairs and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA, USA

  • Nettie Weibe, Farmer and Professor, St. Andrew’s College – University of Saskatchewan, Canada

  • Tamara Wattnam, M.Sc. in Agroecology and PhD candidate in Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

  • Nora McKeon, Terra Nuova, Italy

  • Mindi Schneider, Assistant Professor, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Netherlands

  • Rachel Bezner Kerr, Associate Professor, Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University, USA

  • Peter Newell, Professor of International Relations, University of Sussex, UK

  • Robin Broad, Professor, School of International Service, American University, USA

  • Tony Weis, Associate Professor, University of Western Ontario, Canada

  • John Vandermeer, Professor, University of Michigan, USA

  • Jessica Duncan, Assistant Professor, Wageningen University, Netherlands

  • Josh Brem-Wilson, Research Fellow, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University, UK

  • Laura Enríquez, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of California Berkeley, USA

  • Elizabeth Fitting, Graduate Coordinator & Associate Professor, Dalhousie University, USA

  • Sarah Lyon, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, University of Kentucky, USA

  • Jun Borras, Professor, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Netherlands

  • GRAIN

  • ETC Group

  • Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy, USA

  • Alianza Biodiversidad, Latin America

  • Terra Nuova, Italy

  • La Red por una América Latina Libre de Transgénicos, Latin America

  • El Grupo Semillas, Colombia

  • La Red de Coordinación en Biodiversidad, Costa Rica

  • Sociedad Científica Latinoamericana de Agroecología (SOCLA), Latin America

  • And others (full list in formation)