Finding common ground on the Seed Commons

The perspective of Seed Commons challenges the dominant narrative that the best pathway towards food and nutrition security for the world’s growing population is to foster privately-owned biotechnical innovations, supported by corresponding policy measures (see, for example, OECD 2018). It addresses major political impasses in the present international and national governance of varieties, seed and PGRFA that are based on such narratives and tend to be tailored towards the needs of private sector R&D, large-scale farms and ‘industrial’ food systems, hampering the necessary transition of farming and food systems towards more sustainable outcomes (IPES-Food 2016). By exploring innovative governance models for seed, varieties and PGRFA, Seed Commons could thus provide opportunities to reconsider how innovation could be fostered in a way to better serve current and future needs of farmers and society.

Well that’s exciting. Though I’m a slightly miffed that there was a whole symposium about Seed Commons and nobody told me.

Anyway, check out in particular the paper by Halewood and co-authors, which tries to answer the question: What institutional innovations can enhance farmers’ agency in the evolving global crop commons through use of their specialized knowledge and experience?

Spoiler alert: it’s made-to-measure biocultural community protocols designed to promote farming communities’ access to crop genetic resources from elsewhere1 for experimentation, improvement and management as part of their local production systems. But not only, so read the whole thing. And the other papers too.

  1. No doubt the risks involved in obtaining germplasm “from elsewhere” were mitigated using this handy tool. []

One Reply to “Finding common ground on the Seed Commons”

  1. The introduction to the Seed Commons symposium cites the IPES 2016 report three times.
    I have commented before [right here] on the IPES report – a shocker that should have been binned.
    I said:- “Try this key message from the [IPES]report on the value of diversity: “Mixtures have also been shown to produce 1.7 times more harvested biomass on average than single species monocultures and to be 79% more productive than the average monoculture (Cardinale et al., 2008).” (p. 31, also Fig. 8). This quotation is unacceptable cherry-picking: in fact the Cardinale et al. meta-review endorses monocultures, as follows: “…mixtures of species produce an average of 1.7 times more biomass than species monocultures and are more productive than the average monoculture in 79% of all experiments. However, in only 12% of all experiments do diverse polycultures achieve greater biomass than their single most productive species.” Cardinale et al. repeat this information seven times and then spend most of the rest of their paper in attempting to explain this apparent paradox.”
    Why should the “Seed Commons” people continue to cite the IPES report – which is, in fact, promotion of a dubious take on agroecology.
    A shortcoming of local seed systems is that farmers cannot readily get genetic variation from other coninents (depite growing a majority of crops originating in other continents (exception of rice). But this is exactly what the CGIAR system can do.
    I have a suspicion that people are trying to make jobs for themselves

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