Nicaraguan Peasant farmers defend seeds

Hundreds of peasant farmers, many of them members of the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG), travelled to Managua last week to present to the government a petition laying out the necessity of rescuing, conserving, and planting local seeds of Nicaragua’s food crops as a way to achieve food sovereignty and food security and prevent the introduction of genetically modified seeds. The petitions were given on Sept. 29 to representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of the Environment and the Office of Agricultural Sanitation. The petition asks for changes to legislation on seeds to “promote the conservation, use, management and interchange” of local seeds and forbid the introduction of genetically modified organisms “for production, research, reproduction, or commercialization in national territory.” It also supported municipalities declaring themselves “Free of Transgenics;” there are five such municipalities now in Nicaragua.

There are already 250 seed banks in Nicaragua. By the end of 2010 UNAG and the Campesino to Campesino Program had classified 127 species of corn, 141 species of beans, and 38 of millet and sorghum, among others. Mayra Rodriguez of Campesino to Campesino said, “We need the support and participation of the authorities because it is their duty to protect the genetic patrimony of the country.” Francisco Gutierrez said that native seeds were of good quality and resistant. He added, “We don’t want the transgenic seeds to affect our genetic patrimony and our culture or for us to become dependent on the big transnational seed companies. They only think of their earnings and not of the consequences and damage they do, especially to small and medium scale farmers.”

Gutierrez said that they would continue to push for the rescue of seeds and exchange native seeds “from below, from the communities, from peasant families who produce food and defend our knowledge.” The petition also demanded the implementation of programs to promote organic agriculture. (Radio La Primerisima, Sept. 29, 30)

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