"This is the main project of MST within the frame of Via Campesina’s campaign “Seeds Heritage of the People at the Service of the Human kind”. In addiction, Bionatur belongs to the ANA (National Associtation for Agroecology). The ANA is formed by representatives of MST, other social movements, NGOs and academia. It works as an expert body of the grassroots organizations.
Bionatur is an enterprise for the production and commercialization of seeds. It aims to supply poor farmers with IPRs free seeds. Bionatur/MST, represented by members of the ANA has claimed for the recognition of the value of the Creole seeds. These are seeds that local peasants have used and improved over generations. Their main scientific feature is their high genetic variability. They change every year as they adapt to the changes of the local ecosystem in which they belong. In 2006, the state approved a new “law of seeds”. The category “local, traditional and Creole seeds” was included in this law. This exacerbated the conflict between the rural movements and the state. The ANA claimed that the law of seeds was a first step toward the inclusion of Creole seeds under a regime of IPR. Nevertheless, the ANA and the State agreed in that Creole seeds should somehow be included in the national legal system for two reasons: first) they should be protected otherwise they would be under threat of biopiracy; second) if Creole seeds were not included in the system of rural credits and insurance, farmers would be reluctant to adopt them. Now, the big question became: how to introduce the Creole seeds into the legal system? How to register them? As mentioned, the main feature of this seeds is their genetic variability. For their very nature, they cannot be stabilized and standardized and therefore, they do not fit within current IPR codes. The ANA/MST proposed an alternative system, it was called the “Geografical register”. In the normal national register the quality of the seeds was defined in terms of genetics. But in the geographical register, seeds varieties should be described in terms of their location and their variable phenotypic characteristics. In order words, local people would have to guarantee the quality of these seeds on the basis of their local knowledge. This alternative register should not be based upon trust on science but on the local knowledges. Local farmers should account for the reliability of Creole seeds. But, to what extent were these seeds trustworthy? And, for whom? A geographical register of this kind may work well when applied to the local scale. However, it cannot guarantee the quality of the seeds in other time/space scales. Therefore, the geographical register made difficult the continuation of the national system of insurance and credits for poor farmers. This alternative register would be highly unstable since the Creole seeds vary with every harvest. In addiction, farmers would use the local names, but often one name would refer to different varieties of seeds, while in other occasions the same variety would be referred to by several names. Hence, it is difficult to see how this alternative register could make possible to identify seeds varieties in the long distances. Farmers living in long distances could easily distrust of the quality of MST seeds. It was unlikely that MST or other social movements could take responsibility for the Creole seeds, assuring that these seeds would be productive and safe.
This case raises an interesting question for debate: for the case of agro-biodiversity conservation, how to create alternatives to the IPRs system that are workable in a globalized world?"
- Commons, Nature and Territory.Ana Delgado