Fix the Food System

CAFOD’s food campaign is urging the UK government to protect the right of farmers around the world to use their seeds.   Seeds are life. They are the very foundation for farmers to produce the food that feeds us all.                                                                                                

For generations, small-scale farmers have freely swapped and shared a wide variety of seeds to produce food and maintain biodiversity. More recently, farmers have also developed seeds that ensure crops are resilient to climate change. However, their right to choose what seeds they use is increasingly under threat as new laws are introduced across the world that limit what small farmers can do with their seeds.

Salina is an organic farmer and seed saver in Bangladesh.  She has written to the World Bank calling for the rights of small-scale famers to use their own seeds to be protected.   Why is it so important to support farmers like Salina?   The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that access to a diverse range of seeds is key to reducing the risk of lower food production as climate change impacts become more severe.

In many communities, women play a vital role in saving and sharing the seeds of traditional crops.   This knowledge is at the foundation of the development of new varieties of seeds that help to build climate resilience and protect biodiversity as well as the cultural heritage of communities.   This is Salina’s testimony:

“When I was still doing “chemical agriculture” and buying seeds from outside companies, I had to use chemical fertilisers. If you use chemical fertilisers, you also need to buy chemical pesticides.  This all costs a lot of money, and sometimes my land would lie fallow because I couldn’t afford the costs.   As a woman, I am able to give lessons to other farmers.   I have already taken the initiative myself to provide vegetable seeds especially to women who are producing in their own homesteads.   This season I have provided seeds to 15 or 16 women to produce vegetables in their own homesteads.”  

The World Bank must stop encouraging new rules that prevent farmers from planting, swapping and selling their own seeds – something that has been freely done for hundreds of years.    Pope Francis has spoken out about the need to keep small-scale producers at the heart of our food system.
He says: “What peasants, fishermen and farmers conserve in memory handed down through the generations… is now derided and forgotten by a model of production that is entirely to the advantage of a limited group and a tiny portion of the world population. Let us remember that it is a model which, despite all its science, allows around 800 million people to continue to go hungry.”
Pope Francis has clearly shown how an industrial approach to food production that sidelines farmers is resulting in a broken food system.
More about this will follow.