The Recognition of the Right to Seeds is Key to Ensure Sustainable Food Systems

31 August 2020

Our new Research Brief The Right to Seed and Food Systems identifies international legal standards that should be taken into account by law- and policy-makers when developing normative and policy frameworks governing seeds and food systems.

The Protection of the Right to Seeds and Food Systems

This Research Brief forms part of our six-year research project on food sustainability and food systems – conducted in partnership with the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern, the Centre for Training and Integrated Research in Kenya and Comunidad Pluricultural Andino Amazónica para la Sustentabilidad (COMPAS) in Bolivia and supported by the Research for Development Programme (r4d) of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The project assesses the sustainability of food systems based on five pillars: the realization of the right to food, the reduction of poverty and inequality, environmental performance and socio-ecological resilience.

‘Our research and collaboration with local communities in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia highlighted the importance of recognizing and protecting the right to seeds in national laws and policies. This is key to ensure that food systems are sustainable, attuned to the human rights agenda, and contribute to global food security without neglecting or abusing the fundamental rights of peasants, including their right to seeds’ underlines Dr Adriana Bessa, Senior Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy and one of the authors of the Research Brief.

The Regulation of Seed Access and Control: At the Crossroad of Diverse Interests, Actors and Domains of Law

The research brief highlights that the regulation of seed access and control crosscuts various domains of law as well as socio-economic actors and interests: industrial development and trade, environmental conservation, food security, human rights and cultural heritage protection.

‘In this context, it is imperative that states adopt laws and public policies that provide incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of seeds, the improvement of seed diversity and ecological farming techniques, and the empowerment of peasants, indigenous people and traditional local communities through a human rights-based approach’ explains Dr Bessa.

These laws and policies should be in line with the rights recognized in the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas – which includes the right to seeds – as well as with the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

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