Gratitude for farmers and seeds!
April 17, 2023
Do you thank farmers when you say grace before a meal? In a globalized food system, you have many farmers to cover! And a substantial number of them are scattered around the world, growing everything from coffee and cacao, to cantaloupes and chickens. Yes, despite the fact that the U.S. grows its own melons and millions of chickens, we both export and import those very same items.
Overall, the number of farmers who grow for export is relatively small compared to the hundreds of millions of farmers who grow for local, regional or national markets — and those farmers produce over half of the world’s food. To them, we dedicate this day!
Every year on April 17, the global farmers movement La Via Campesina calls upon their allies, member organizations and you to take action on this day. Farmers, who feed the planet, tragically are among the poorest and hungriest people in the world. Theirs is a daily and seasonal struggle for seed, land and water rights. Peasants’ rights include the rights to food; food sovereignty; an adequate standard of living; seeds, land and other natural resources; and to a safe, clean and a healthy environment.
Seeds, of course, are a primary focus for farmers. Yet the diversity of seeds available and their control over them diminishes as giant companies grab patents and claim them as their own intellectual property.
In January 2023, young farmer leaders from La Via Campesina participated in a rally in defense of seed diversity and called on governments to enforce stricter regulation of genetic engineering during the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in Berlin, Germany. Tyler Short, from Family Farm Defenders and Louisville’s Food in Neighborhoods, a grantee of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, was one of the delegates to the Forum.
The delegation reminded the forum that seeds are public commons and for more than 10 millennia, farmers have been selecting, exchanging, storing and selling seeds. They critiqued attempts by corporations, aided by friendly governments, to appropriate and privatize seeds and to criminalize farmer seed keeping and exchanges.
As part of their statement to the forum, they said “many farmers have lost their seed sovereignty and are now dependent on multinational seed companies, which determine which seeds with which characteristics are marketed. These developments are fatal and hamper the realization of the right to food and overcoming hunger. At the same time, this dependence leads to uniformity in the fields and thus threatens biodiversity.”
Chengeto Muzira of the Zimbabwean Small Holder Organic Farmers’ Forum, one of the young peasant leaders who attended the summit, said:
“Seed biopiracy occurs when rich people and corporations steal local seeds and commercialize them for profit. This theft is done by buying up local and national gene banks and all the research facilities associated with them. With access to local seeds, patents are developed that make the seeds less accessible to farmers, especially peasants and other small-scale farmers.”
The delegation also warned that a powerful lobby comprising transnational corporations and technical and scientific associations is working to exempt new genetic engineering processes from regulations in Europe.
Muzira continued, “This is despite the fact that even the first generation of genetic engineering has not contributed to the fight against hunger but has forced millions of farmers into dependence on agricultural corporations and debt. At the same time, production systems have been established based on genetically engineered pesticide-tolerant plants and place an extreme burden on biodiversity.”
Andrew Kang Bartlett, Associate for National Hunger Concerns, Compassion, Peace & Justice, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: International Day for Farmers’ Struggles
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Charles Baker, Production Clerk I, Presbyterian Distribution Service, (A Corp)
Janelle Baker, Mission Specialist, Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us pray
We pray for all the farmers who toil so we may eat. We send our thoughts to their families and their communities everywhere. May they all be safe, healthy and happy. We pray, too, that they can protect their livelihoods in the face of companies and misguided approaches to development that produce efficiency and profit, while privatizing land, reducing biodiversity, creating poverty and despoiling God’s Creation. We pray for strength for the producers who practice agroecological and regenerative farming, who strive to leave healthy ecosystems to their children and grandchildren. For ourselves, we pray for strength to make needed changes in our own lives and to help bring about a more just and sustainable world.
You may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.