Seed diversity and local seeds are essential for sustainable agriculture.
Why is biodiversity important in agriculture?
Modern agriculture rests on a very narrow base of genetic diversity which cannot respond to the very diverse and changing needs of both farmers and the natural environment. In addition, the high-yielding varieties developed by the formal research system are often high-maintenance varieties that require the use of lots of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, as well as water which are both costly and environmentally unsustainable.
What is the cause of the loss of agricultural biodiversity?
Since the introduction of “Green Revolution” technologies (such as high yielding varieties and pesticides) into Iran in the 1950s with the Point 4 Program of President Truman many traditional varieties were sidelined and lost. And with the establishment of breeding as a specialized activity suitable only for educated elites, farmers began to lose their ancient role as researchers.
Today, while many experts are concerned about global genetic erosionthis erosion is being accelerated by the privatization of the seed sector and the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The privatization of the seed sector is facilitated by new seed laws and policies. Today most seed laws combine both marketing regulations and intellectual property rights. They define what seeds can and cannot be sold, exchanged or even used. In the Iranian seed law certification and registration are both addressed, although there are some ambiguities in the law, some of which are addressed in the new seed policy of Iran.
What can be done to protect agricultural biodiversity?
In order to protect genetic diversity, and to ensure that farmers have access to seeds and animal breeds that are adapted to their environment and economic situation and cultural preference, farmers must have access to “local varieties” and must be meaningfully involved in the breeding and research process. Cenesta is committed to supporting these objectives through its work on Participatory Plant Breeding.