Brussels, October 15 – Citizens and associations have called to a demonstration tomorrow October 16, on World Food Day, in front of the Sheraton hotel in Brussels (place Rogier) between 3pm and 5.30pm to oppose the European seed industry’s lobby group (European Seeds Association – ESA) which is holding there its annual general assembly.This body indeed serves the interests of powerful multinational companies (Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont-Pioneer, Bayer, BASF…) who do their utmost best to tighten their control on all crops, without any regard for biodiversity, public health (the seeds sold by these companies need large quantities of pesticides and herbicides these companies also sell) or for farmers’ economic survival. The ESA is now pushing hard to influence the EU’s ongoing revision of seed marketing and plant health legislation, and strongly lobbied the European Court of Justice last July in the Kokopelli ruling (see quotes next page).
Farmers’ rights to keep, use, exchange and sell their own seeds, conditions to food sovereignty and agricultural biodiversity’s preservation, are as old as agriculture itself. Some seed companies also play an important role in selecting and producing seeds, but it is unacceptable to let a handful of monopoly-seeking industrialists destroy this legacy, which also conditions our biological survival, for their exclusive profit.
This gathering is organised by the Belgian network for Community-Supported Agriculture, which answered a call by the European citizens’ movement “Seed Sovereignty” to organise actions against seed multinationals
as well as a call from the Nyeleni Europe movement for Food Sovereignty to transform the “World Food day” into the “World Food Sovereignty day”
. It will be followed at 6.30pm by a dinner, short movies screenings and a conference in the “123” (123 Rue Royale, 1000 Brussels, http://www.123rueroyale.be/), and the evening will end with a concert by “Chômeuse Go on”. Conversations will revolve around the multiple ongoing initiatives to re-establish an agriculture which spares mankind and nature, focuses on farmers against multinationals and works with nature rather than against it: far from certain predatory fantasies, the future belongs to re-invention!
Laurence Van Belle, Le Début des Haricots, (FR) +32477343139
Coralie Vos, Oxfam Solidarité, (FR,NL), +32485217014
Martin Pigeon, Corporate Europe Observatory (FR, EN) +32484671909
Pierre Sultana, Arche Noah (FR, EN) +32493118972
Guy Kastler, European Coordination Via Campesina (FR) : +33603945721
ECVC : +3222173112 (EN, FR, ES, DE, IT, NL)
« The industry produces the seeds that are the most profitable, not those who are truly adapted to the needs of farmers, consumers and the environment » explains Laurence Van Belle from Le Début des Haricots, a non-profit association based in Brussels that works for the defense of the environment and promotion of urban agriculture. « For us it is essential to be able to continue to produce and reuse our own seeds as well as local varieties, that are more resistant and by definition more adapted to our growing conditions. »
« We have to oppose the appropriation of seeds by the seed industry » asserts Martin Pigeon from Corporate Europe Observatory, an European association that studies multinationals lobbying. « Today, the seed industry has managed to get hold of the seed market and has almost achieved a complete oligopoly. The 10 biggest companies represent 74% of world market shares. What is at stake with the gradual patenting of plants’ genome is nothing less than the privatization of nature and the possibility to practice an agriculture compatible with our natural environnement. These companies, that only pursuit their private interest (which is normal for a company), have become so powerful that they largely determine fundamental public legislations. This is not acceptable. »
« We are a non-profit association aimed at preserving and protecting old varieties seeds. Yet the legislation and the decision of the European Court of Justice forces us to compete with the seed industry » says Isabelle Chapelle, from Kokopelli Belgium. « It is a pity that we have been sentenced under the motive that our seeds could not be productive enough just because we have not undergone very expensive official tests designed for industrial hybrid seeds. They didn’t consider our varieties’ importance for both food and genetic diversity. »
«At least the ruling of the European Court of Justice proves that today’s legislation only aims at plant productivity, without much regard for agricultural biodiversity and of other plants qualities such as nutritional value, taste, robustness and capacity of adaptation » stated Pierre Sultana from Arche Noah, a european association for seed protection. « For this reason, it is necessary that UE politicians seize the chance of the revision of this legislation and build a system that includes interests that go beyond productivity stakes, for example by excluding biodiversity actors from the field of the legislation. » « The European Patent Office must respect its mandate, which forbids it to patent vegetal varities and « essentially biological » processes » he concluded.
« It is the historical right and practices of peasants exchanging and selling their own seeds – that always enabled them to feed mankind – that this informal law proposal tries to destroy today. It will prevent adaptation to climate change and the necessary decrease of use of chemical inputs, as well as submit peasant practices to the wishes of seed corporations. But it is not all : for the first time ever, we are facing a full-scale offensive against subsistence agriculture, which will necessarily become illegal if this project is applied as it is proposed today. Las but not least, there is a risk that the market will be flooded by patented and genetically modified varieties and plants. It is very clear : without substantial changes, this so-called « Better Regulation » will only be so for seed multinational companies ! » said Guy Kastler, from European Coordination Via Campesina.