Seeds, GMOs and restrictions on farm-saved seed make food crop seeds a hotly contested issue. This weekend the Scottish Crofting Federation is hosting the seventh international agricultural biodiversity forum Let’s Liberate Diversity in Strathpeffer, near Inverness. The event is being organised by Garden Organic, the UK Food Group, Practical Action and supported by European and African partners.
The impending reform of EU seed legislation later this year lends an urgency to the discussions. Previous EU restrictions on the use of farm-saved seed are taken as a threat to preserving agricultural biodiversity, as well as opening the door to increasingly invasive levels of patenting and gene-grabbing.
In addition to the business sessions, the forum will celebrate crofters’ seeds and breeds with a crofters’ market where delegates will meet local seed breeders, farmers of rare breeds and be able to swap both information and seeds as well as buy croft produce.
The Scottish Crofters’ Federation has been actively participating in European seed campaigns: just last December, SCF members Karen MacRae and Susan Garde Pettie travelled to Strasbourg to attend a training course in the French city. The pair joined in a demonstration to protest at the French government’s plans to tax farmers saving their own seed.
“The farmers fear that the tax will support research and development into unwanted genetically modified seeds with the cost of the research being drawn, in part, from traditional farmers who have, for generations, saved their own seeds locally,” Karen explained.
Nor is this issue in the gift of national governments. “This is not just a French issue: the feeling among many representative organisations, including the SCF, is that the agri-industrial complex is making a concerted effort to privatise the sources of life,” Karen added.
“Seeds, literally, are the source of life and it is wrong that the rights and controls over seeds should be being placed in the hands of a small number of multinational companies whose focus is on maximising their shareholders’ returns. There are real concerns that legislation of this sort will increase their domination of the sources of life.” The SCF places a high priority to making links across Europe with groups that face similar issues to crofters.