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While the UPOV celebrates its 50th anniversary, farmers are protesting against an institution that only serves the seed industry

27 October 2011

Press Release - European Coordination Via Campesina and Uniterre

Geneva – Thursday, October 20, 2011.

Today, between 12:00 and 14:00 hours, over a hundred peasants, members of associations and concerned citizens rallied in front of the headquarters of UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants), to express their protest on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the institution.

Their rallying call was “For the immediate recognition of the right of farmers to freely reseed and exchange their own seeds, to protect them against biopiracy and from contamination by patented genes. No to the stranglehold of multinational seed companies on the 1991 COV and against any form of patents on plants, on plant parts, on their genes or on processes for obtaining them”.

A tree was planted in front of the institution to symbolize the fact that farmers have achieved obtaining observer status within the UPOV. They expressed their determination by symbolically performing the “kata of the hoe”. Afterwards, small bags of “illegal” seeds were distributed and sown in the vicinity to illustrate the causes of their struggle. Those accepting these seeds are now regarded as petty felon “receivers”. Peter Vanek, Philip Sauvin (solidaritéS), Robert Cramer, Clement Toluso and Anne Mahrer (Greens), candidates in the federal elections, are among those who accepted the bags.

“Regarding seeds, the situation has long been intolerable for farmers, and it may even get worse. The problem raised here actually affects every citizens, since the issue of access to seeds, their free breeding and exchange by farmers is the only way to avoid that multinationals, via the UPOV, end up monopolizing and privatizing, through the seeds, the entire food chain and thus the living ”
explained Pierre-André Tombez, from the Swiss farmer’s union Uniterre.

The right of farmers to replant and exchange farm-bred seeds is vital to adapt the crops to climate change and to achieve local adaptation, the only way to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This right guarantees the safety of seed stocks, and thus food security.

“Farmers have always kept a part of their harvest for replanting and exchanging it among them. Whether UPOV approves it or not, they will continue to do so. The future of agriculture, of the farmers as well as that of future generations relies upon it. The right to store, plant and exchange seeds is the basis for achieving Food Sovereignty” stated Josie Riffaud, member of the Coordination Committee of the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC).