Food Sovereignty

New legislative proposal poses threat to Brazil's native seed supply, experts warn

A new legislative proposal would enhance corporate control over Brazilian seed supply, experts warn.

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo

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The bill would consolidate power of multinational corporations through the promotion of GMO’s and dependence on agro-chemicals.  / Lilian Campelo

Due to strong corporate pressure from Brazil’s agricultural lobby, Brazilian legislators are expected to vote on a controversial proposal that if approved would undermine the ability of peasant organizations to develop their own ‘creole’ seed systems.

The conservation and preservation of traditional seeds for small-scale farmers acts as a buffer against crops developed with the use of pesticides and genetically modified seeds. 

"With traditional seeds, a small scale farmer does not need to use synthetic fertilizers and they don’t need to rely on the use of agrochemicals in order to cultivate their crops," said Lourenço Bezerra, an agricultural specialist with the Federation for Social and Educational Assistance.

The bill represents ongoing efforts by Brazilian industrial agriculture companies to introduce a legal framework that will force small-farmers into the corporate seed market. 

In an interview with BrasildeFato, Bezerra went on to point out that if passed, the bill would benefit corporate agricultural firms by allowing them to collect royalty payments from farmers who use their seed technology. 

"Farmers are already having to purchase the seeds from these companies and now they want to force them to purchase their agricultural inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers. This proposal clearly seeks to benefit large corporate agriculture firms,” Bezerra stated. 

Meanwhile, a Brazilian political official Nilto Tatto, who heads the Lower Chamber Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, criticized the proposal, arguing that it would undermine the "country’s national food security" by declaring corporate seeds as intellectual property. 

Tatto went on to state that the measure would consolidate power of the multinational corporations by the promoting the use of GMO’s and dependence on agro-chemicals. 

Globally, the agrochemical market, which is dominated by a handful of chemical companies have established a virtual monopoly over the commercial seed market, of which they dominate more than 60% and 100% of genetically modified seeds, according to a 2017 report published by Via Campesina. 

In efforts to stem the growing power of agricultural corporations, Tatto advocated for increased government regulation over the country’s food production system.

“Perhaps the most alarming recommendation contained in the policy proposal is the removal of the state over certain aspects of Brazilian agricultural policy," Tatto stated. 

As a result of decades of farmers’ struggle in Brazil for access to land and for food sovereignty, a National Policy for Agroecology and Organic Production was adopted in 2012 by the former Workers Party (PT) government that explicitly recognizes the role of peasants’ own ‘creole’ seeds.

In 2013, as a result of this program, members of the landless workers movement (MST) produced 7,000 tones of maize, beans and forage crop seeds by more than 2,000 small-scale farmers belonging to the movement. 

Edition: Translation: Nate Singham