Producing your own seeds will give you greater autonomy; you will thereby contribute towards maintaining a common heritage that has been developed over countless generations and that is fast disappearing; and it is an act of civil disobedience against increasingly restrictive laws that enable the big seed companies to gain total control over this source of life.
The monopoly of agro-industry in a standardized and globalised market has led to the destruction of thousand-year old agricultural systems that enabled generations to feed themselves. There used to exist hundreds of thousands of vegetable species across the planet, but today they face an accelerated process of extinction and the world’s food relies on an increasingly limited number of plant species.
Each region, each valley, used to have its own varieties adapted to local conditions. Exchange between farmers was part of life. Varieties travelled. Industrial agriculture, on the other hand, needs “homogenous” and “stable” varieties that will produce uniform vegetables with a long shelf life. The very opposite of the selection criteria used by farmers who developed “populations” rich in diversity and with the faculty to adapt, to evolve and to resist to changing local constraints.
Most plant diseases are today provoked by industrial agriculture. The monocultures at the heart of oversimplified and mechanised agrarian systems bring about irreversible genetic erosion that will only lead to famine in the future. They are an insult to the boundless ingenuity of generations of farmers.
In Europe increasingly restrictive legislation is linked to the obligation for seed producers to register their varieties in an official catalogue which imposes strict DHS criteria (distinctness, homogeneity and stability). These criteria are modeled on the needs of intensive production and in no way suit heirloom seeds or small producers. Those who do not respect these laws can find themselves taken to court, as Kokopelli has experienced on several occasions in France. Such laws need to be combated. One of the best ways to resist against them is to increase the number of people producing seeds, whether this is legal or not.
We live in a time of crisis and conflict. Each war, each economic crisis, forces those affected, both individuals and civil societies as a whole, to return to their most basic needs: a roof over one’s head, clothes to wear, and food to eat. The situation is not encouraging: most city dwellers no longer know how to plant a vegetable, while farmers depend almost entirely on a few multinationals for their seeds. In Greece, in Syria and elsewhere, populations destabilized by crisis and war seek access to seeds. In Syria, in Irak, the cradle of all cereal crops, in Afghanistan where many vegetables have their origins, seed banks have been systematically destroyed, often by western bombs. They represented an invaluable heritage of traditional heirloom seeds of varieties domesticated by generations of farmers. It is too dangerous to entrust this heritage to a few gene banks to which farmers have little access. We should also not forget the bloody, mostly urban, food riots that affected the beginning of the 21st century in a context of speculation on cereal crops and climate disruption.
On a global scale genetically modified plants now cover a surface equivalent to that of western Europe. The collections of ancient traditional corn varieties in Mexico, the cradle of this culture, have been contaminated by GMO corn imported from the United States. The GMOs that are being imposed on us will not resolve either famine or malnutrition, nor counter plant or human diseases. They are, on the contrary, a menace for the environment and public health.
In France, for example, selection work on oats has been abandoned by research institutes because it costs too much and because of the disappearance of the working horses for whom oats were the principal fuel. But what if one day we have to go back to animal power?
The promoters of industrial agriculture claim that they represent the only way to ensure that mankind, with its constant demographic expansion, can be fed. The opposite is true: they are endangering the future of the planet. The disappearance of small farmers provokes the disappearance of varieties and of the know-how needed to grow and multiply them. Small farmers and gardeners are seed guardians and we must therefore, on the contrary, ensure that there are more and more of them.For all of these reasons we must preserve the great diversity of heirloom varieties and ensure free access to them, as they are the seeds for the future. The only way to guarantee their survival is to cultivate them in our gardens, not just to conserve them in deep freezers or gene banks.
The aim of this film is to provide a tool that will enable you to produce your own seeds. This is not very difficult, costs nothing and is a source of real pleasure. This know-how must not be monopolized by specialists working for companies that privatize access to seeds by patenting them or by creating sterile hybrid varieties. By producing your own seeds you can demystify this knowledge and achieve greater autonomy. Seeds represent a common heritage that we must reappropriate and protect so that it will continue to bear fruit in the future.
Jacques Berguerand, Longo maï