“We have shaped biodiversity for food and agriculture and it shapes us; food sovereignty and a healthy environment depend on it.
Food sovereignty ensures that rights to use and manage lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food”
Declaration of Nyéléni, 2007
About the Working Group
PRESENTATION OF THE WORKING GROUP
In Aiguillon (France), in September 2012, the IPC formalized a Working Group on Agricultural Biodiversity focused, initially, on farmers’ seeds, including the implementation of Farmers’ Rights, with oversight of all issues and forums related to the governance of agricultural biodiversity. For many years, IPC members have been involved in these issues concerning the conservation, sustainable use, development and governance of agricultural biodiversity, which underpins food sovereignty.
Agricultural biodiversity continues to be severely threatened by industrial commodity production – smaller scale and ecological food production enhances it. Agricultural biodiversity depends on the women and men peasant farmers, herders and livestock keepers, artisanal fishers, forest dwellers, Indigenous Peoples and other small-scale food providers, who feed the world. A challenge is to ensure that their voices dominate the discourse.
Many IPC members’ organizations worldwide are involved in the IPC Working Group on Agricultural Biodiversity. During time, the Working Group started dealing with a wider range of issues regarding agricultural biodiversity.
 Agricultural biodiversity is defined as encompassing the variety and variability of cultivated and ‘wild’ species – plants, animals, and microorganisms – which are necessary to sustain key functions of the agroecosystem, its structure and processes for, and in support of, food production and food sovereignty. It is principally developed, in smaller scale systems, by, and has co-evolved with, women and men peasant farmers, herders and livestock keepers, artisanal fishers, forest dwellers, Indigenous Peoples and other small-scale food providers in situ, on-farm, on the range and in aquatic and marine ecosystems.
La Via Campesina (LVC)
Marciano da Silva
La Via Campesina (LVC)
de América Latina y el Caribe (MAELA)
Centro Internazionale Crocevia is the NGO responsible for the facilitation of the Working Group: contacts with other NGOs, Governments or institutions; logistics; advocacy and lobbying in Rome.
The IPC Working Group organizes internal meetings, workshops, trainings and consultations on different issues. These meetings are fundamental to: build the capacities of the grassroots organizations; receive feedbacks from the ground; raise the awareness on global issues and negotiations; strengthen the struggles at national and regional levels; raise the voice of small scale producers to the decision-making spaces; strengthen the exchange from farmer to farmer from the North to the South and from the East to the West.
PARTICIPATION IN POLICY-MAKING PROCESSES
to influence the decisions on different issues at regional and international levels
> The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGRFA), especially on article 6 (on sustainable use) and article 9 (on Farmers’ Rights).
> The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) of the FAO.
> The technical Committee on Agriculture (COAG) of the FAO.
We humans are part of biodiversity, the diversity of living beings
> Farmers’ seeds is the central issues for the Working Group. The IPC defends collective rights, change laws and discriminatory policies, and develop new legal frameworks that respect and protect Farmers’ Rights to use, save, exchange and sell seeds, putting the control of biodiversity and knowledge back in the hands of peasants. Policies need to value local knowledge, and give the opportunity to share peasants’ knowledge.
> New biotechnologies or synthetic biology. The Green Revolution proposed and is proposing false solutions – such as new breeding techniques (also called “new GMOs”) – that aim at controlling the means of production in the hands of industries. The IPC Working Group defend the peasants’ rights to protect the farmers’ seeds system from misappropriation (such as Intellectual Property Rights).
> Digitalization (or de-materialization) of genetic resources. The access to farmers’ genetic resources is becoming easier day after day, thanks to the open access system of the information regarding seeds. It is not a solution for farmers; it will just benefit industries and ex situ breeders in patenting new varieties coming from the farmers’ seeds system. Nothing is negotiable without an effective system of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) that safeguard Indigenous Peoples and farmers’ communities.
> Biodiversity in agroecology (in collaboration with the IPC Working Group on Agroecology). The IPC Working Group support an agroecological approach for food production. Seeds are central for agroecology. There is no agroecology without a guaranteed farmers’ seeds system.
> Animal biodiversity. The public health risks and costs of sheds of pigs and poultry are profound. The combination of genetically similar animals in unhealthy production environments (with their attendant over-use of antimicrobials) is a global pandemic in the making. Governments should move rapidly to remove barriers to small-scale livestock farmers and pastoralists, and stop subsidizing industrial livestock agriculture that is destroying ecosystems from the genes up.
> Marine genetic resources (in collaboration with the IPC Working Group on Fisheries). Small-scale fisheries face many threats: industrial and destructive fishing practices, climate change, water contamination caused by mining, the proliferation of invasive species, large-scale infrastructure development, violence and persecution, water grabbing, privatization and exclusion of the natural resources on which they depend. Fresh waters and lakes (such as Atitlan, Guatemala) are affected to varying degrees by pollution that affects reproduction and causes genetic mutations. Women fishers, youth and indigenous peoples continue to be marginalized and struggle to participate meaningfully in policies for the sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems and to adapt their livelihoods and preserve their traditional cultures and skills, with all the socio-economic impacts associated with these major disruptions.
> Forest genetic resources. Plantations have caused ecocide in many countries by polluting and diverting rivers, destroying marine species and dispossessing surrounding communities. The role of local food systems, small-scale producers and agro-ecological approaches in forest conservation must be taken into account, while achieving food security and nutrition. FPIC must also be respected and applied as the way communities can define for themselves the kinds of “livelihood opportunities” they want.
> Climate change. Biodiversity is critical for a resilient and sustainable food system, and that we need now more than ever resilience to deal with the impacts of climate change. It is up to the governments of the world to do what is necessary to build this resilience back into our food and agriculture systems, by supporting best those who have always and will continue to maintain and develop biodiversity – the indigenous peoples, peasants, and small-scale farmers and fishers of the world.
> Invertebrates and microorganisms. Rebalancing ecosystems to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of the diversity of microorganisms and invertebrates rather than on the unsustainable industrial production of genes and microorganisms that are merely a dressing designed to hide a wooden leg temporarily.
IPC Agricultural Biodiversity Brochure
2017. Kediri (Indonesia). Asian and Pacific Consultation of the IPC on Farmers’ Rights. Credits: Stefano Mori
2017. Kigali (Rwanda). Antonio Gonzales of MAELA speaks at the 7th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Credits: Stefano Mori
2018. Latin American and Caribbean Consultation of the IPC on Farmers’ Rights. Credits: Adilvane Spezia – MPA Comunicaçao
2017. Australia. Tammi Jonas in her agroecologic farm. Credits: Tammi Jonas
2018. Marzamemi (Sicily). Small-scale fisheries. Credits Stefano Mori
Stop the FAO corporate capture
On 4-5 November 2021, the FAO hosted a “Global Conference on Green Development of the Seed Industry,” whose goal is to push forward the seed industry’s agenda by opening up a new political process within the FAO. We, the undersigned small-scale food producers and Indigenous Peoples organisations, civil society organisations and academics are outraged by the aggressive corporate capture of the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
We called upon FAO’s Director General and all FAO Member States to avert the corporate capture of UN decision-making spaces