Seeds under Siege: It’s Time to Support Traditional Systems

10:07 EDT 19 Oct 2016 | Meridian Institute

In this opinion piece, Rachel Wynberg, an associate professor in bio-economy research at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, writes that seeds provide the mainstay for Africa’s 500 million small-scale farmers. Yet seeds are becoming increasingly commodified, with more than 63 percent of the world’s commercial seed now owned by just six corporations. Proposed mergers could reduce this number to just three. “These concentrations of political and economic power not only reduce farmers’ choices, but also signal profound changes for Africa,” she says. Such corporations routinely tout hybrid and genetically modified (GM) seeds, even though an increasing body of evidence reveals problems associated with the high cost of such seeds and the resultant debt farmers incur. Many, she continues, question whether seeds bred for large-scale industrial agriculture are appropriate for African smallholders. Still, philanthropic organizations throughout Africa are promoting the adoption of hybrid and GM seed, while other institutions are pursuing other fixes, such as biofortification. In the process, says Wynberg, many are questioning whether approaches based on diverse farming systems and diets are being overlooked. In order to return seed production and knowledge to the hands of local communities, writes Wynberg, government needs to recognize the importance of farmer-led seed systems for food security. Extension services should provide independent advice rather than relying on seed and agrichemical companies. And, she concludes, gene banks should be reimagined to serve the needs of smallholder farmers and careers based on agroecology should be created so more young people becoming interested in agriculture.

Original Article: Seeds under Siege: It’s Time to Support Traditional Systems


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Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. The substance is ingested by an organism ...