Agricultural biodiversity is increasingly recognised as essential for sustainable agriculture, particularly in the face of climate change and today, many experts are concerned about the fast pace of genetic erosion (the loss of agricultural biodiversity). This erosion is being accelerated by the privatization of the seed sector and the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which restrict on-farm seed saving by farmers, making them dependent on the relatively few varieties available on the market.
In Iran, imported hybrid seeds have already taken over the market for vegetable seeds completely, but most farmers continue to use farm-saved seeds for other crops, particularly rain-fed crops.
The privatization of the seed sector is facilitated by new seed laws and policies. Seed laws in most countries currently combine marketing regulations and intellectual property rights. They define what seeds can and cannot be sold, exchanged or even used.
Iranian seed law addresses both certification and registration and the Seed and Plant Certification and Registration Institute (SPCRI) is responsible for its implementation. While the seed law greatly restricts the use and exchange of farm-saved seeds, the National Seed Policy Document not only allows it but even requires the government to support farmers in improving the quality of their own seeds.
These contradictions will have to be addressed in future laws and polices and it is the aim of Cenesta to ensure that farmers have a say in this process.
For an analysis of the content and impacts of new seed laws, which are very similar worldwide, see the seed laws page of the GRAIN website.