The EARWG Rice Seeds Trade Campaign Statement

Farmers over the world are developing, cultivating and breeding rice varieties for thousands of years. Traditional varieties of rice products of improvements made mainly by women farmers through careful selection, saving and exchanging of rice seeds. This nurtures the rice diversity of rice as food and agricultural farming systems and creates a colourful way of life for ALL ASIAN PEOPLE.

The East Asia Rice Working Group (EARWG) advocates so that farmers are able to freely save, exchange and develop new rice varieties to help ensure that rice remains a viable source of food for all and a sustainable livelihood for women and men farmers.

Farmers through their local and international networks are actively sharing knowledge and experience in sustainable agriculture and rice seed production. Sustainable agriculture practices by women and men farmers such as organic farming, ecological pest management, permaculture, System for Rice Intensification (SRI) and bio-dynamic farming offer better alternatives to improve farmers’ livelihood than the introduction of high-yielding varieties, hybrid rice seeds and genetically engineered seeds developed by transnational corporations, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), academic and research institutes, which are often supported by governments and international financial institutions.

Giant agribusiness transnational corporations who, armed with trade rules and technology, are taking over the food and agriculture systems at unprecedented scale and pace. New plant varieties and technologies, protected by intellectual property rights prevent farmers from saving and exchanging seeds. Apart from this disruptive and alienating effect on women farmers’ role in the food production system, this makes rice cultivation vulnerable to monopolistic control by giant agri-business transnational corporations. Patents to rice varieties, genes and gene constructs are held by only a handful of transnational corporations such as Syngenta and Monsanto. Today, new plant varieties are “owned” by corporations and even universities. This means that the rights of farming communities who actively improve rice varieties are not recognized under the current rules.

Government is not providing support, which resulted to farmers’ dependence on extension agents. More often, the suppliers, traders, and service providers are the one and the same person or company. Even government agencies and personnel act as agents for transnational corporations. This inevitably caught women and men farmers in a vicious cycle of dependence, indebtedness and abject poverty.

Hence this Rice Seed Campaign: SEED IS LIFE, STOP MONOPOLIZING!

Governments should be reminded of their responsibilities towards the people. They should not allow rules and technologies that restrict farmers’ ability to freely exchange and develop rice seeds.

We therefore call on governments to:

Actively promote and channel resources to support the development and practice of sustainable agriculture led by farmers’ organizations and civil society groups;

Stop using public resources to promote the interests of transnational corporations;

Ensure that TNCs do not gain control over national research on rice seeds development and production, particularly those that has technology barriers to farmers;

Provide conducive policy environment by allowing and supporting on-farm seeds saving and free exchange of seeds among farmers;

Maintain control of rice seeds distribution while promoting and supporting local seeds production by upgrading extension services, farm facilities, and support infrastructure; and

Adopt or experiment on alternative agricultural technologies or models.

We call on the international community to:

Resist patents on rice and rice seeds as well as on any life forms;

Widely promote and support sustainable agriculture;

Make proactive choices as consumers in favour of a sustainably produced and fair traded food and other agriculture products;

Ensure gender equality by recognizing the contribution of women in food production, removing barriers to their participation in the social, economic and political arena; and

Strengthen the farmers’ movements globally by supporting their activities, and lobby policy and decision makers in favour of Farmers’ Rights to seed.

More campaign statements:

     EARWG Statement on Women & Rice