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 as 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. Continue reading “Statement of International Solidarity with Venezuela’s Seed Law”