Seed laws, certification and standardization

Tamara Wattnem | 03.17.2016

Seed laws, certification and standardization: outlawing informal seed systems in the Global South

A series of relatively new seed laws are becoming novel mechanisms of accumulation by dispossession in agriculture. Many researchers have argued that intellectual property rights (IPR) laws that apply to living materials dispossess people of seeds by privatizing germplasm. What these authors have not addressed is the role that non-IPR-related seed laws play in the seed enclosure. I argue that we should pay more attention to the implications of seed laws and regulations that do not deal directly with IPR issues, because they are also being used to outlaw practices that are necessary for the functioning of informal seed systems. As a result, they are setting the stage for the further erosion of seed sovereignty and are becoming an additional threat to an already waning agro-biodiversity, with direct consequences for farmers’ livelihoods.

These seed laws establish certification requirements and quality standards for the marketing and/or exchange of seeds. I use the example of contemporary Colombian seed politics to illustrate how and why certification requirements and quality
standards are currently being introduced throughout the Global South. I draw on insights from the standards literature in order to explain the power, limitations and consequences of these laws.

Keywords: certification; food sovereignty; seed laws; seed sovereignty; seed systems;standards; Colombia

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