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Press Release – Growers unite to protect their seeds

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Press Release – Growers unite to protect their seeds

The Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA) and Soil association (SA) will be launching a Seed Savers’ Network for farmers and growers in the South West this weekend. This regional network will be the first of many launched around the country with the aim of empowering farmers and growers to breed their own seed and develop appropriate, locally adapted varieties.

This initiative comes in response to the steady loss of appropriate seed for small-scale production and increasing moves at the European level to further concentrate control over our plant genetic resources to corporate interests.

Daniel Burston, a grower in Devon said: “For thousands of years farmers all over the world have been creating, preserving and renewing seed diversity by breeding and saving from the plants in their fields.  The diversity of agricultural seeds and the freedom of farming communities to have control over them is fundamental to our food sovereignty.”

“With this network we are creating practical on-farm solutions to rebuilding our agricultural biodiversity. Now we need political will to support these initiatives rather than continuing to sell the common inheritance of our seeds to the highest corporate bidder!”

The LWA campaigns for farmers and growers to have rights to obtain seeds from their own harvests, to breed and to distribute them.

The LWA is an official member of the international peasant farming movement La Via Campesina that represents 200 million small-scale producers around the world. We campaign for the rights of small-scale producers and lobby the UK government and European parliament for policies that support the infrastructure and markets central to our livelihoods.

Photo opportunities available 11th and 12th October

Press Contacts in the UK:

Daniel Burston – 07729305393 / Adam Payne 07817 320504



Save Our Seeds event


We are organising an event with the Soil Association on the subject of seeds.
The event is to be held at Embercombe, Devon on the 11th and 12th October and will not only cover the history of seed saving and the seed industry, as well as the current directives and proposed legislations, but also practical workshops on seed saving and breeding. There will also be talks about what is currently happening in the UK with seed trials and also the launch of the South West Seed Savers’ Cooperative.

On the evening of the 11th there will be a film and ceilidh as well a food. Camping is available as well as some space in yurts.

Booking is essential, and tickets can be purchased here.
There are a whole host of other events involving seeds around London on the 11-12th October as part of The Great Seed Festival.

Here is the preliminary programme (details may change)

Saturday 11th October

Arrive from 1:30pm

3pm – Welcome and introduction

3:15pm: Seeds – a brief history with Peter Brinch from Open Pollinated Seeds

Why Open Pollinated seeds are important and enchanting

3:40pm:  A commercial case-studywith Kate from The Real Seed Catalogue

The practicalities and realities of running a small seed company specialising in high quality OP seeds

4:00pm: Questions and Answers Session with Peter and Kate

4:30 – 4:50pm: Refreshment Break

4:50pm: The latest from the Open Pollinated Seed field lab and update on EU seed legislation with Ben Raskin from The Soil association

5:10pm:  South West Seed Savers’ Cooperative with Dan and Ash from The Landworkers’ Alliance

A presentation followed by a discussion.  What are our needs as growers regarding seeds?  What are our responsibilities as growers regarding seeds? As growers, what can we do to improve the state of things?

6:20pm – Summing up the day.

7.00- Dinner

8:30pm – Open event – Film – “Seeds of Freedom” introduced by Peter Brinch followed by a Ceilidh


Sunday 12 October

9am: Practical seed saving workshop with Kate from The Real Seed Catalogue

This will cover  selection, pollination, maintaining genetic diversity, harvesting, winnowing, drying, storing, quantities needed, trialling and recording.

11:00: Refreshment Break

11.20: Tour of Embercombe land and gardenswith Jo Clarke, head of land and education at Embercombe

12.30: Final plenary.Actions for moving forward?

13.00: Lunch

More details will be up shortly about how to book the event.

Reclaiming farmers’ rights to seeds.

IMG_3828Reclaiming peasants’ and farmers’ rights over our own seeds.

Brussels, 20th January 2014

A report back from the Landworkers’ Alliance delegation


On the 20th of January five Landworkers’ Alliance members joined over 300 other farmers, growers and people concerned about the rights of farmers. The protest in Brussels was to demonstrate that farmers across Europe are not willing to accept the proposed seed regulation (EU Plant Reproductive Material Law) that the seed industry is trying to push through parliament. This legislation would have a hugely negative effect on the rights of farmers to use, save and exchange their seeds.

IMG_3825Three of us joined about 10 others for the seed campaign working group of the European Coordination of Via Campesina (ECVC). Farmers from across Europe were represented including those in the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Romania, Germany and Turkey.

We heard updates of La Via Campesina’s work on the seed campaign across the world. It was explained that the proposed legislations would go against the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (also known as the International Seed Treaty). The Treaty is supposed to ensure that plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, are conserved and sustainably used, and that benefits from their use are equitably and fairly distributed. It has been ratified by a long list of countries as well as the EU. In actual fact the Treaty has allowed industry the access to peasant saved seed. Multi national seed corporations are then able to use this primary genetic resource and then patent these seeds, prohibiting peasants and farmers from saving the seeds that they themselves and their ancestors have bred over centuries.

all together now

Seed Legislation

Currently the seed legislation is made up of Directives which were put in place by the European Commission. Such directives can be interpreted by each member state, resulting in different levels of leniency. The proposed legislation is an EU Regulation which must be adhered to in its entirety across all member states. The result in the UK would be much tighter controls of seed saving and lead to the loss of many open pollinated varieties.

If a farmer saves their own seed it is their responsibility to analyse it to ensure that it is not contaminated with a neighbours crop (and patented genetic material). Technology for analysing is inaccessible to small scale producers, which means that farmers have fallen into the routine of buying seed from suppliers, who can afford the necessary analysis equipment.

The proposed legislation states that open pollinated seed varieties must be registered within the framework of hybrids, meaning that it must be Distinct, Uniform and Stable (D.U.S). Open pollinated varieties would not fit into the necessary criteria, since they contain inherent diversity and they change over time (this is of course a benefit as genetic diversity is improved).  It also suggests the privatisation of the public control of the seed market. This would mean that large companies could have their own internal controls, and others would be overseen by private entities regulated by the industry. This would of course lead to even more peasant and farmer seed to be modified and patented, further depleting our access to seed.

If the proposed regulation is rejected the new commission would have to rewrite the legislations under further pressure from industry, especially as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment (TTIP) is pushed through. It is therefore hoped that the law is re-negotiated rather than rejected fully.

IMG_3844Systems for maintaining seed diversity

We shared stories of the current situation in each of our own countries with regards to seed legislations and seed saving. Many countries have setup strategies to continue maintaining and improving peasant seeds such as Reseau Semences Paysannes in France. This is a network of farmers across France who save their own seeds and exchange them with other farmers in their region. It seems to be a very well organised group that brings farmers together to share their experiences of seed saving and maintains, improves and disseminates traditional varieties. Another important role of such groups seems to be the engagement and mobilisation of consumers. It is essential that as the seed savers we must let our consumers know about the issues with seed laws and show that our traditional, open pollinated varieties build biodiversity and resilience into our farming system, and humanity’s continued sustainable presence upon this Earth.

Many of the successful seed networks were farmer led, but also involved students or technicians to help record data on the seeds to ensure that they are well maintained. This seems essential so as to allow the farmer to not be overwhelmed by the extra work involved in maintaining good traditional varieties. Seed fairs are then organised to bring farmers together and also raising awareness to the public.

After hearing these stories we felt that something similar should be set up in the UK amongst farmers and small holders. We will be looking at organising a similar network of seed savers and trying to revive the skill of seed saving through skill sharing events. More to follow soon with this.

IMG_3816GM across Europe

The following morning we were updated on the current situation of GM crops in the EU. Different technologies are being used to create “hidden” GM crops, which are being rushed onto the market by seed corporations before the Commission decides whether or not they should be classified as GM.

The Spanish government officials have strong links with Monsanto, whose propaganda can be found in the government offices. Trial sites are being kept secret in Spain, and organic growers have had to stop growing maize in fear that they will be contaminated by GM maize. Stories from Romania suggest that National Parks are at threat from being planted with GM crops, as government officials own swathes of land in the parks and may have links with Biotech firms.


After these incredibly fruitful workshops we headed to the protest that was organised by ECVC outside the offices of the European Parliament. It was a friendly gathering of farmers, growers and those who cared about the rights of farmers and food sovereignty. People came from all over Europe, including a tractor driven from Germany, and Severine (from Greenhorns) joined us from USA. A large crowd gathered around to listen to members of Via Campesina (including our very own Adam Payne and Gerald Miles) talk about the struggles faced by farmers not only in Europe but across the world as the rights of small scale farmers are being undermined. These were hugely inspirational talks and it made me very proud of being part of a wider movement, which for much of the year is easy to forget, as so many of us are wrapped up in our own work of farming and growing.

IMG_3857A hugely popular seed swap took place, organic lunch was served and a football match followed. FC Paysan took on Real Bio-tech in a match which saw the referee tie the hands of FC Paysans, and the team of Real Bio-Tech handing out money to the crowd. Needless to say, we (the supporters of FC Paysan) stormed the pitch and tried to even out some of the referees malodorous decisions.

The lobby tour then followed, which was given by the Corporate Europe Observatory. We gathered outside the offices of Bayer and the European Seed Association (ESA) whose location just outside the offices of EU Parliament illustrated how much lobbying presence they have. It was a real insight into the massive lobbying power of the seed industry at EU level. We learnt that there are between 15,000 and 50,000 lobbyists in Brussels – an astounding figure – the exact number is unknown, shrouded as it is. We did of course cover the fronts of the offices with posters showing our disapproval of the situation.

To wrap up our few days in Brussels a public conference was held with speakers including Elizabeth Mpofu (General Coordinater of La Via Campesina) who summarized the key struggles wonderfully. We had just about enough energy to have a good old dance, always good to see different growers dancing techniques – the “Scythe dance” was a favourite.

Farmers Rights to Seeds and breeds under threat!

Press ReleaseLWA logo

For immediate release: 20.01.14

Location: European Parliament, Brussels

Farmers Rights to Seeds and breeds under threat!

Today, the Landworkers’ Alliance mobilise alongside 27 other European farmers’ organizations during the agricultural commission’s meeting at the European Parliament. At stake are the rights of 40 million European farmers to have control over maintaining, improving and trading their seeds and livestock breeds.

Small and medium scale farmers produce over 70% of the world’s food; they rely on farm-saved seed to remain resilient and adaptive. Farmers’ seeds and breeds are the foundation of our food system and must remain in the service of farming communities and ultimately, eaters.

Over 300 farmers, under the umbrella of the European Co-ordination of La Via Campesina have joined ‘The mobilization to defend farmers rights’ today. They are calling on the Parliament to affirm the centrality of farmers’ rights to control their own seeds and breeding animals, and to reject proposed privatisation of public regulation.

Adam Payne, a market gardener from London and member of the Landworkers’ Alliance said:

“European farmers need regulation to enable access to good and appropriate seeds and breeds. The EU must prioritise farmers’ needs, not cede further power to corporate interests.”

The LWA is a member of the international peasant farming movement La Via Campesina which represents 200 million small-scale producers around the world. We campaign for the rights of small-scale producers and lobby for policies that support the infrastructure and markets central to our livelihoods.

Photo Opportunity:15:00-16:00 20th Jan, Pl. du Luxembourg, Brussel

Press Contact: Ed Hamer

t: 07858 381539

e: LWApress@riseup.net

w: landworkersalliance.org.uk

Download LWA press release 20 01 2014

Mobilisation to defend farmers’ rights

Call for actions of the European Coordination Via Campesina

SeedsFOR the rights of farmers to use and freely exchange their seeds and breeding animals, and to have unrestricted access to all available crop diversity

AGAINST patents on living organisms, and control of the seed market by multinationals

Mobilisation on Monday, January 20th 2014 at 13:00-Place du Luxembourg, in front of the European Parliament

The European Parliament will be voting on legislation on the marketing of seeds, animal and plant health and official controls on food production.  The European Coordination Via Campesina is calling to organize action in Brussels or in your own country before the vote on this regulation.

Industry is bringing huge pressure to bear on the Parliament to cancel some of the openings proposed by the Commission:

  • recognition of farmers’ rights to exchange their seeds;
  • marketing of unregistered or heterogeneous seeds in a framework that is already too limited;

The other most contentious issues are:

  • widespread marketing of patented plants and varieties, the risk of a total ban of farm-saved seeds and resulting potential contamination of all farm-saved seeds;
  • privatisation of public control of the market, replaced by large private entities controlled by industry, or, in the case of large companies by their own internal controls;
  • setting production and marketing standard that are inaccessible to small operators and organic seeds;
  • and finally the increased difficulty for certain associations involved in biodiversity conservation to continue disseminating their seeds.

This is why the European Coordination Via Campesina is launching this call to all farmers, people who defend farmers and farm-saved seeds, organic farming organisations, to all associations who work in and support the conservation and dissemintation of agricultural biodiversity and finally to all those who feel concerned, to support this peasant struggle by mobilizing on january 20th, as well as by organising activities (public seed exchange, symbolic actions, lobbying politicians, etc.)in your own country before the vote on this regulations.
How to participate to the mobilisation?
Bring your SEEDS to exchange and things to make noise and music with!!

More information on www.eurovia.org and if you are planning an action, please contact benjamin@eurovia.org

 Download the program of the 20th of January in Brussels here.