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Via Campesina and the Fight for Seeds

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, our Millions Against Monsanto pageand our Organic Transitions page.

The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Monsanto and its patented seeds last Monday by throwing out a case tirelessly petitioned for by organic farmers. That decision dealt yet another blow to the small-scale agricultural community—it was only last month that the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the agricultural giant’s “license agreement” yet again.

But Via Campesina, the global agrarian movement made up of more than 200 million peasants in 80 countries, is not ceding to big agriculture. This week, Via Campesina held its VI International Organizing Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, reaffirming its fundamental commitment to seed sovereignty.

With the Green Revolution came a promise to end hunger through so-called miracle seeds. Instead, it ushered in seed property rights, domination and even criminalization of small-scale farmers, and waves of transnational corporate control of agriculture. Under “Monsanto Laws,” more specifically known as UPOV 91, patents prohibit farm-saved seeds and peasant seeds for which multinational corporations have filed patents. UPOV 91 works hand-in-glove with the Plant Variety Protection Act that asserted heritage seeds counterfeit to standardized industrial varieties.  

These policies, adopted by one country after another, routinely displace peasants in the Global South and wreak havoc on the environment. In the Global North, native seeds have nearly reached extinction while hybrid (and often chemical GMO) varieties take their place.
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