Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Declaration of Seed Sovereignty - A Model for the Rest of Us.

The bold and courageous County Commissioners of Santa Fe County NM have created a document we can use to initiate similar resolutions in our own regions.

Resolution No. 2007 - 9
A Resolution in Support of a "Declaration of Seed Sovereignty:
Living Document for New Mexico"

WHEREAS, our ability to grow food is the culmination of countless generations of sowing and harvesting seeds and those seeds are the continuation of an unbroken line from our ancestors to us and to our children and grandchildren.
WHEREAS, our ancestors developed a relationship with plants that allowed their cultivation for food and medicine and this has been a central element of our culture and our survival for millennia in regions throughout the world.
WHEREAS, the concurrent development of cultures of Eurasia, Africa, and the Americas resulted in a plethora of food and crop types including grains such as maize and wheat; legumes such as beans and lentils; fruits such as squash and chile; vegetables such as spinach and those of the cabbage family; and roots such as potatoes and turnips.
WHEREAS, these foods and crops, though developed independently of each other, came together in New Mexico with the meeting of Spanish, Mexican, and Native American cultures to create a unique and diverse indigenous agricultural system and land-based culture.
WHEREAS, just as our families are attached to our homes, our seeds learn to thrive in their place of cultivation by developing a relationship with the soil, water, agricultural practices, ceremonies, and prayers; thereby giving seeds a sacred place in our families and communities.
WHEREAS, the way in which seeds become attached to a place makes them native seeds, also known as landraces, also makes them an important element of the generational memory of our communities.
WHEREAS, the continued nurturing of native seeds or landraces has provided the basis for the community coming together for communal work such as Cleaning acequias and preparing fields as well as in ceremony, prayers, and blessings thereby binding our communities, traditions, and cultures together.
WHEREAS, the practices embodied in working the land and water and caring for seeds provides the basis for our respectful connection to the Earth and with each other.
WHEREAS, our practices in eating for native seeds (Iandraces) and growing crops provide for much of our traditional diet and results in our ability to feed ourselves with healthy food that is culturally and spiritually significant.
WHEREAS, clean air, soil, water, and landscapes have been essential elements in the development and nurturing of seeds as well as the harvesting of wild plants; and that these elements of air, land, and water have been contaminated to certain degrees.
WHEREAS, corporate seed industries have created a technology that takes the genetic material from a foreign species and inserts it into a landrace and is known as Genetically Engineered (GE) or transgenic crops.
WHEREAS, seed corporations patent the seeds, genetics, and/or the processes used in the manipulation of landraces, and have gone so far as to patent other wild plants or the properties contained in the plants.
WHEREAS, GE crops have escaped into the environment with maize in Oaxaca, Mexico and canola in Canada and crossed into native seeds and wild plants.
WHEREAS, organic farmers have been sued by seed corporations when these patented genetic strains have been identified in the farmers' crops, even though the farmers were unable to see or stop pollen from genetically engineered crops from blowing over the landscape and into their fields, thus contaminating the farmers' crops.
WHEREAS, the effect of this technology on the environment or human health when consumed is not fully understood.
WHEREAS, the seed industry refuses to label GE seeds and food products containing GE ingredients.
WHEREAS, the pervasiveness of GE crops in our area cannot then be fully known due to the lack of labeling and therefore carries the potential for genetic pollution on our landraces.
WHEREAS, countries such as Japan, England, and countries in Africa have refused genetically modified foods and prohibit the introduction of GE crops on their lands because of their unknown health effects.
WHEREAS, indigenous cultures around the world are the originators, developers, and owners of the original genetic material used in the genetic engineering of crops by corporations today.
WHEREAS, this declaration must be a living, adaptable document that can be amended as needed in response to rapidly changing GE technology that brings about other potential assaults to seeds and our culture.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of County Commissioners of Santa Fe County supports the following:
• The traditional farmers of Indo-Hispano and Native American ancestry of current day northern New Mexico collectively and intentionally seek to continue the seed-saving traditions of our ancestors and maintain the land races that are indigenous to the region of northern New Mexico;
• Seek to engage youth in the continuation of the traditions of growing traditional foods, sharing scarce water resources, sharing seeds, and celebrating our harvests.
• Reject the validity of corporations' ownership claims to crops and wild plants that belong to our cultural history and identity.
• Object to the seed industry's refusal to label seeds or products containing GE technology and ingredients and demand all genetically modified seeds and foods containing GE ingredients in the State of New Mexico to be labeled as such.
• Object to the cultivation of GE seeds in general but especially within range of our traditional agricultural systems that can lead to the contamination of our seeds, wild plants, traditional foods, and cultural property.
• We will work with each other, local, tribal, and state governments to create zones that will be free of genetically engineered and transgenic organisms.
• We will also work together to address other environmental abuses that contaminate our air, soil, and water quality that certainly affects our health, the health of our seeds and agriculture, and the health of future generations.
• We will work together with the traditional farmers representing various acequia, Pueblo, tribal, and surrounding communities to create, support, and collaborate toward projects and programs focused on revitalization of food traditions, agriculture, and seed saving and sharing.



  1. This is so very important! Bravo to the people of Santa Fe County to have realized the need and taken action for their Declaration of Seed Sovereignty. Very close to home in my heart, is a similar issue in Iraq, described in the October 2004 edition of Seed, which I'm sure most of America knows nothing about - that is, the subjugation of the indigenous agriculture seed-saving traditions, to the American-led revitalisation program that completely PROHIBITS this ancient culture from planting and saving their own seed! What a tragedy!

    Here is an excerpt from that article:
    When former Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator L. Paul Bremer III left Baghdad after the so-called "transfer of sovereignty" in June 2004, he left behind the 100 orders he enacted as chief of the occupation authority in Iraq. Among them is Order 81 on "Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety." [1] This order amends Iraq's original patent law of 1970 and unless and until it is revised or repealed by a new Iraqi government, it now has the status and force of a binding law. [2] With important implications for farmers and the future of agriculture in Iraq, this order is yet another important component in the United States' attempts to radically transform Iraq's economy.


    For generations, small farmers in Iraq operated in an essentially unregulated, informal seed supply system. Farm-saved seed and the free innovation with and exchange of planting materials among farming communities has long been the basis of agricultural practice. This is now history. The CPA has made it illegal for Iraqi farmers to re-use seeds harvested from new varieties registered under the law. Iraqis may continue to use and save from their traditional seed stocks or what’s left of them after the years of war and drought, but that is the not the agenda for reconstruction embedded in the ruling. The purpose of the law is to facilitate the establishment of a new seed market in Iraq, where transnational corporations can sell their seeds – genetically modified or not, which farmers would have to purchase afresh every single cropping season.

    While historically the Iraqi constitution prohibited private ownership of biological resources, the new US-imposed patent law introduces a system of monopoly rights over seeds. Inserted into Iraq's previous patent law is a whole new chapter on Plant Variety Protection (PVP) that provides for the "protection of new varieties of plants." PVP is an intellectual property right (IPR) or a kind of patent for plant varieties which gives an exclusive monopoly right on planting material to a plant breeder who claims to have discovered or developed a new variety. So the "protection" in PVP has nothing to do with conservation, but refers to safeguarding of the commercial interests of private breeders (usually large corporations) claiming to have created the new plants.

    To qualify for PVP, plant varieties must comply with the standards of the UPOV [3] Convention, which requires them be new, distinct, uniform and stable. Farmers' seeds cannot meet these criteria, making PVP-protected seeds the exclusive domain of corporations. The rights granted to plant breeders in this scheme include the exclusive right to produce, reproduce, sell, export, import and store the protected varieties. These rights extend to harvested material, including whole plants and parts of plants obtained from the use of a protected variety. This kind of PVP system is often the first step towards allowing the full-fledged patenting of life forms. Indeed, in this case the rest of the law does not rule out the patenting of plants or animals.

    The term of the monopoly is 20 years for crop varieties and 25 for trees and vines. During this time the protected variety de facto becomes the property of the breeder, and nobody can plant or otherwise use this variety without compensating the breeder. This new law means that Iraqi farmers can neither freely legally plant nor save for re-planting seeds of any plant variety registered under the plant variety provisions of the new patent law. [4] This deprives farmers what they and many others worldwide claim as their inherent right to save and replant seeds.

    Note: I don't know about you, but this just makes me sick. What can be done about this?

  2. Wonderful piece of legislation. Bravo Santa Fe County. You've definitely got my vote -)