Peasant agriculture, seeds, and biodiversity
Canadian Food Studies / La Revue canadienne des études sur l alimentation
Seeds hold a special place in the struggle for food sovereignty. These small grains are the basis for the future. They shape, at each life cycle, the type of food people eat, how it is grown, and who grows it. Seeds are also a vessel that carries the past, the accumulated vision, and knowledge and practices of peasant and farming communities worldwide. -La Via Campesina, Our Seeds, Our Future (2013) Farmers and food providers have created and maintained the knowledge and biodiversity that is
... basis for the planet's food supply for thousands of years. Yet seeds and biodiversity have been at the margins of the mainstream discourses on food security. New thinking and global events are rapidly changing as seeds, biodiversity, and peasant agriculture are now front and centre in the discourses promoting food sovereignty, food system resilience, and sustainability. 1 This paper argues for a central place for this discourse, examines the state of peasant agriculture, and outlines the policies and measures needed to support it. These new dynamics are fed by both crisis and opportunity. The current crisis is related to post-2008 questions of how to feed a billion hungry people on a planet seriously endangered by climate change, and in the context of market volatility, unrestrained speculation and investment in land and food commodities. The opportunity, on the other hand, stems from heightened awareness and action on food justice, seeds, and biodiversity at all levels: states, 1 These reflections are based on the work of USC Canada (Unitarian Service Committee) with social movements, farmers' organizations, and networks working on seeds and biodiverse agriculture over the past decade.