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19 April 2013 | | | |

Outstanding Debates

Peasant Assessment of Native Seed Festival On the International Day of Peasants’ Struggle

The open debate between family farmers and representatives of oficial institutions such as the National Institute of Seeds (INASE) and the National Institute of Colonization (INC) was a huge success at the 5th National Native Seed and Family Farming Festival, Building Food Soverignty held last weekend in Valle Eden, Uruguay.

At least this was the assessment of Mauricio Vives, a farmer of the west of Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, and member of the Uruguayan Network to Save and Value Native and Creole Seeds.

Mauricio, traditionally a horitculturist, is now a member of a small cooperative of corn and wheat production and also dedicated to producing corn and wheat flour. He said he was satisfied with the outcome of the Native Seed Festival on Sunday.

The festival began on Friday with the 6th Meeting of Native Seed Producers. Both meetings were organized by the Uruguayan Network to Save and Value Native and Creole Seeds, REDES-Friends of the Earth Uruguay, Programa Uruguay Sustentable, Centro Agustín Ferreiro (rural teachers’ training center), the National Commission for Rural Promotion and the School of Agronomy of the University of the Republic.
Mauricio said that one of the main conclusions of the weekend is that the Meeting of Farmers should take place outside the Festival, it should be a private space, exclusive for the producers. “The strategy and the political guidelines of the Seed Network have to be set by the farmers, taking into account the contributions of others. This is something we need to work on”.

Nearly 1,000 people participated in the three days of activities, which highlights were the Seed and Legislation table, the one on Access to Land, and the one focused on genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the country.

Mauricio specially emphasized the debates that took place with INASE’s participation, at the table of Seeds and Legislation and the INC on Access to Land.

The farmer told Real World Radio the state agencies or government advisors participated in the previous editions of the Seed Festival, they would do their presentations and leave. “This time we managed for the first time to change that so that the institutions would participate each on their own subject but having a discussion with the farmers”, said Mauricio. He praised that “they presented whatever they had to present, but then there was the chance to debate”.

It was expected that differences would arise, but in general all exchanges took place within an atmosphere of respect. “I believe that it was really good. In some cases it implied some confrontation, because we are sensitive to certain issues such as the regulations, the legislation and we have different views about seeds and if seeds may be appropriated and be subjected to intellectual property rights; or whether seeds, our native seeds has to be declared of public use and be used freely, and no one should lose the right to plant it and work with it”. However, Mauricio said “it should also be acknowledged that it is good to have some way of evaluate the work we do, of giving some kind of reliability to the seed so that the producer who receives it knows the germination point, that it won’t have contamination problems and we cannot do that because we don’t have a lab. But INASE has one, so it’s good to reach some kind of agreement”. He also said that they have to be smart and coordinate with INASE “without losing the rights we have acquired over the years”. “If the seed exists it is not because of them, but because the farmers continue to preserve it”. “The differences between us were made very clear, as well as the areas where we can work together. So, from now on, when we discuss all these things with INASE we will have a more fluent dialogue”, added Mauricio.

The farmer said something similar happened at the table on Access to Land. “When the producers speak of the difficulties of access to land we always end up upset because there is no way the INC will listen to us”. He stressed that there was a good atmosphere where many farmers were able to express their satisfaction with the access to land, especially the groups from Bella Union (in the north of the country) and Tacuarembo, who had been reclaiming that for years. “And the others who have not had access to land were able to have an open dialogue with the Institute and the doors are now open to continue working on this”, he concluded.

Photo: Real World Radio

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