Selecting and producing seeds means continuing the fertility cycle and ensuring the availability of crops for the subsequent year. Since the selection of seeds entails choosing the best fruits, the process helps to improve plant and seed varieties which, year after year, will continue to progress in terms of weight, yield and capacity to germinate.
The continuous rise of industrial agriculture and its need for uniformity, homogenization and a focus on profit, has resulted in a concentration of the species which are grown and a reduction in the number of varieties, with a terrible loss of plant biodiversity. It only takes a look at the numbers to better understand this trend: of the 80,000 edible species available for food production, only 150 are currently grown, 8 of which are sold on a global scale.
We therefore have a duty and a responsibility towards seeds: to protect and preserve them in order to guarantee richness and variety in our meals, but also to safeguard their biological and cultural heritage of diversity. Seeds of all different varieties are the present and future of life; they should be protected irrespective of cost effectiveness as they could be carriers of fundamental characteristics potentially useful in the future.
EU legislation on the subject is currently made up of 12 directives. Created in the 60s and 70s, it had a double aim: to increase crop productivity thanks to the legal guarantees of the distribution system of high-yielding varieties (through certification and official registration) and the protection of buyers from potential scams. In a bid to update and simplify these directives, in 2013 the European Commission put forward a regulatory proposal on production and supply to the market. This was rejected in 2014 by the EU Parliament, who asked the Commission to reformulate a proposal to take individual Member States into greater account and truly benefit producers.
Slow Food is calling for a new law on seeds which combines the production and availability of high quality seeds with the effective protection of biodiversity. The new law should pay particular attention to traditional seeds and their link to land and traditional knowledge, allowing the exchange of varieties amongst small-scale producers and between producers and enthusiasts, while regulating their sale based on adequate and non-penalizing requisites. The regulation should foster the work of those who cultivate diversity and should offer opportunities in support of farmers who are guardians of registered varieties, in recognition of the role they play in the conservation and production of agricultural biodiversity.
Traditional and heirloom varieties should be promoted, while at the same time guaranteeing the necessary tests and checks for consumer safety. In particular, Slow Food is calling for a legal framework of public policies that:
- Respect international agreements ratified by the European Union, with particular regard for the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of the FAO;
- Safeguard diversity through the voluntary and free registration of seed varieties;
- Guarantee the safety and traceability of traditional seeds on the market, by introducing a series of requirements based on different methods of agricultural and seed production;
- Do not limit the freedom to exchange traditional seeds and encourage a sense of responsibility among those who handle seeds.
Watch the video on seeds realized by Slow Food