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‘Free our seeds !’ Strategies of farmers’ movements to reappropriate seeds

Abstract : Seed movements around the world share a common enemy: global seed corporations, which are seen as organizing an unfair monopoly over seed markets, using technical devices, industrial property rights, and economic concentration, at the expenses of farmers’ livelihoods. Yet these movements differ in their aims and strategies. Some defend a principle of the free circulation of seeds, rejecting any public regulation of the seed trade. They argue that seeds embody a vital principle that, by its essence, cannot be constrained, either by regulation or intellectual property rights (IPRs). Some others want to counter-balance asymmetries of power between corporations and farmers, arguing that for centuries farmers have collectively managed and enriched crop genetic resources and have now earned rights in return. This chapter focuses on an organisation belonging to the second group – the French Réseau Semences Paysannes. From the beginning, it has clearly placed emphasis on farmers, framed as commoners who replenish a common pool resource, genetic resources, which is essential to plant breeders’ activity. Yet the positioning of the movement towards the banner of ‘the commons’ is internally debated: presenting oneself as stewards of agrobiodiversity is certainly productive but appears to some members as reductive of their experience. Farmers’ seed ‘reappropriations’ do not necessarily translate into property claims, but rather into the defense of farmers’ collective rights on seeds.
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Contributor : Elise Demeulenaere <>
Submitted on : Friday, February 22, 2019 - 2:54:55 PM
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Elise Demeulenaere. ‘Free our seeds !’ Strategies of farmers’ movements to reappropriate seeds. Fabien Girard; Christine Frison. The Commons, Plant Breeding and Agricultural Research. Challenges for Food Security and Agrobiodiversity, Routledge, pp.210-225, 2018, Earthscan Food and Agriculture, 9781351615907. ⟨hal-01793041⟩

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