Every Seed is a Symbol of Resistance

11 October 2020

The Forums of Terra Madre are moments of discussion in which the members of the Slow Food Network – producers in the many communities and presidia, cooks, activists and experts – debate issues related to agriculture, nutrition, sustainability, biodiversity, and production models.

seeds forum terra madre

The focus this year is different ecosystems, beginning with the lowlands and the battle between the use of traditional seeds as opposed to GMOs, followed by:

  • The Highlands and their management systems (scheduled for Sunday, October 11, at 11 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. CEST);

  • Water, a common good which is increasingly threatened by privatization (scheduled for Sunday, October 11, at 11 a.m. and 8.30 p.m. CEST)

  • and, finally, the relationship between food and cities and how we can implement a harmonious relationship between urban spaces and the rural world (scheduled for Monday,October 12, at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. CEST).

The strongest nodes of our network participate in our forums: a united strength which we’d like you to be part of: sign up and participate in this global debate.

Moderated in the morning edition by Francesco Sottile, professor of Tree Cultivation and Special Arboriculture at the University of Palermo, and in the afternoon by Rita Moya Azcarate, coordinator of Slow Food Chile, we dedicated the first Forum to the role seeds have in the regeneration of lowlands.

seeds forum terra madre

“The lowlands have a failed agricultural system for many reasons, especially because of the climate,” commented Sottile. “But they’re also home to many producers who work with respect for resources. The topic of seeds is important, even more so in light of the strong pressures that the whole sector has suffered in recent years, first with GMOs and, more recently, with genome editing. The big seed multinationals are increasingly trying to obtain patents on seeds and plants, and this represents a huge risk.”

The Battle Against Climate Change Begins with the Defense of Biodiversity

In the Philippines, explains Alfie Pulumbarit, advocacy manager for Masipag – Farmer-Scientists Partnership for Development, rice is a political commodity: “Since the 1970s, the green revolution has transformed it into a simple product of exchange, excluding producers from the logic of development of new typologies. In the 1980s groups of producers and farmers formed to share their knowledge to find new approaches in rice cultivation. Climate change has hit the Philippines very hard lately, increasing rainfall and typhoons and causing drastic losses for farmers. Resistant rice varieties are being selected and about 50, to date, manage to survive droughts and floods.”

The Ukrainian situation is much more complex, as told by Tatiana Sytnik, founder and coordinator of the Seed Treasury project. The country ranks 139th in the world for biodiversity conservation, with a climate characterized by low humidity and the south of the country at risk of desertification. National policies don’t promote or support a more sustainable lifestyle, isolating the voices of those who are already working to reverse this trend. On the contrary: intensive cultivation is increasing with the sole objective of increasing the owners’ income.

seeds forum terra madre

Latin America and the Battle for Traditional Seeds

The signs coming from Latin America are not very encouraging: “Talking about Peru – says Karla Gabaldoni of Peru Free of GMOs – “means talking about 84 of the 117 areas of natural life on the planet. We have eight different ecosystems and eight climate zones. These geographical features nurture and balance biodiversity, and to preserve it farmers exchange seeds as part of ancestral traditions. Thus they are preserved in situ and adapt to changing environmental conditions. Here 1% of producers cultivate most of the land, even if GMOs are taking over and the government is very passive with respect to the phenomenon, as is civil society.”

In Brazil, local farmers and producers are trying to resist tenaciously: “We are fighting against the big companies that control the seed market. We want to take back traditional activities, encourage local productions to preserve and guarantee our food heritage,” comments Luciano Ferreira da Silva, an agroecological producer.

“The elements to be considered in order to undertake a structural change – concludes Rita Moya Azcarate – are clear: each seed has an indissoluble bond with the land in which it grows and with the people who take care of it. It is therefore necessary to recover and guarantee its free circulation, creating solid links between the various members of the supply chain and investing with foresight to cope with the dramatic implications of climate change. Having land and water is vital and, in this sense, every single seed embodies a symbol of resistance.”

Participating in the two discussion tables were:

Alfie Pulumbarit (advocacy manager for Masipag – Farmer-Scientists Partnership for Development), Tatiana Sytnik (founder and coordinator of the Seed Treasury project), Patrizia Spigno (agronomist, researcher and responsible for Slow Food Campania Presidia), Jordi Limón Marsa (owner and cook of two restaurants in Barcelona, ​​promoter of a project on the recovery and enhancement of ancient plant varieties), Erling Frederiksen (member of No patents on seeds!), Sophia Kasubi (manager of the Echo seed bank), Melissa de Billot (coordinator of the Slow Food Rainbow Corn Presidium), Luciano Ferreira da Silva (agroecological producer, Cabruca cacao presidium and Karla Gabaldoni (Peru Free of GMOs).