CAFOD urges World Bank to uphold farmers’ right to access seeds
By Sr. Nina Benedikta Krapić, VMZ
The UK Catholic aid agency (CAFOD) has handed a letter from Salina, a small farmer in Bangladesh, to representatives of the World bank, at their annual meeting in Morocco on 12 October.
The letter calls on the World Bank to protect the fundamental rights of small farmers to use their own varieties of seeds.
CAFOD said that, in some countries, new seed laws have been insisted on by the World Bank in exchange for financial support. These laws prevent farmers from sharing seeds as they have done for generations and instead force them to buy seeds from large agribusinesses.
The Catholic charity emphasizes that the right to use traditional seeds is reduced or even criminalized in some countries, especially in Africa.
“Sometimes people don't even know that it could be something that is against the law, because it's so unthinkable that we can’t use certain variations of seeds that we have been using for so many generations,” said Andrea Speranza, CAFOD’s Campaigns Manager, in an interview with Vatican News.
“The World Bank, to which one of the mandates is to eradicate poverty, should be supporting small farmers like Salina, instead of promoting commercial seeds only, that are beneficial for big companies, but not always are well received by small farmers,” noted Ms. Speranza.
Letter signed by 70,000 Catholics
Salina’s letter was signed in gesture of solidarity by over 70,000 Catholics, as well as 18 Catholic Bishops, from 750 parishes across England and Wales.
“Pope Francis has told us that each of us has a role to play in transforming the current global food system for the benefit of people and planet,” Ms. Speranza recalled.
She added that one of the reasons to stand against the promotion of only commercial seeds is that some people can’t afford commercial seeds. In other cases, they prefer to use their own seeds.
“In many cases these are more nutritional or better adapted to the unique conditions of the environment where they live,” explained Ms. Speranza. “This is very important for this era of climate emergency because we need seeds that can adapt to the different environments and the change in the environment that we are facing due to climate emergency.”
Billions of food-insecure people
CAFOD's food campaign “Fix the Food” is urging the UK government and institutions, including the World Bank, to protect the right of farmers around the world to save, use, exchange and sell their own seeds.
“There is an urgent need to transform the current global food system,” noted Ms. Speranza, sharing the concern of other experts, food and agricultural organizations.
Ms. Speranza pointed out that CAFOD is not against commercial seeds, but is calling on the World Bank is to protect the fundamental rights of small farmers to use their own seeds.
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