Asia’s Seed Laws — Control Over Farmers’ Seeds
Seeds and farmers go together; at least that is how most of us understand agriculture. Farmers select certain crops based on local considerations, exchange planting material freely amongst themselves, cross selected varieties and upon harvesting, choose the seeds to keep for the next planting season.
For centuries, these have been taken as given practices in small farm agriculture, but can no longer be taken for granted today. The situation is fast changing. For with new controls, including through seed laws, farmers’ varieties are being deliberately sidelined and their traditional practices, curtailed.
Over the last three to four decades, Asia has seen a real shift in rulemaking by national governments on agriculture and particularly seeds. Since seed is very much a local resource, informally there exists immense diversity in farmers’ varieties; there are as many seed practices as there are farming communities across Asia.
What remains historically common through these practices are farmerseed exchange systems; intrinsic to these is the practice of farm-saved seeds (FSS). However, as long as farmers continue to save and breed their own seeds, it is difficult for seed companies to sell the seeds they produce. So where technological controls don’t work, laws are the tool of choice for corporations to either prevent farmers from saving seeds or to force them to pay for farm-saved seeds, thereby coercing them to buy corporate seeds.
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