France, publication of a White Paper to protect seeds produced directly by farmers and gardeners

Everyone knows the phrase spoken during the Apollo 13 mission: “Houston, we have a problem”. To paraphrase, we could say that “We have a problem with safeguarding biodiversity in farming”. We start from a simple point: by 2050 we will have to produce enough food for at least another 2 billion people. According to the  FAO we have reduced our agricultural diversity to just 12 vegetable species and 14 of animals. We therefore are in need of an urgent change in direction to combat the decline in agricultural biodiversity, which is in steep decline due to the monopoly over seeds held by a few global companies. Over the past 100 years, 90% of traditionally used seeds have gone out of cultivation, and 75% of them have vanished irretrievably. This threatens food security, especially in the face of global warming, whose effects in agriculture can only be stopped by using a wider diversity of seeds. Instead of a few firms having a monopoly on the production of seed, what is needed is the possibility of recreating horizontal seed exchange networks, the only way  to renew crop biodiversity and protect a heritage that is cultural as well as genetic.

We are therefore pleased to note the initiative by a French MP who has put forward a draft law that provides for the unimpeded sale and sharing of varieties of seeds and plants that are in the public domain. This could be used by farmers and gardeners (including amateur gardeners) to protect and continue to produce species that would otherwise, according to current legislation, be destined only for private consumption or for groups with an economic or envrionmental interest.

We hope the initiative will be successful and that – just as the Apollo 13 astronauts were saved – we are still in time to save  agricultural biodiversity for present and future generations.