Summary and Highlights of Articles
December 24, 2015
Progressive Seek Law Bans Transgenics and Protects Local Seed
The National Assembly of Venezuela, in its final session before a neoliberal dominated opposition takes the helm of legislative power, passed one of the most progressive seed laws in the world on December 23, 2015; it is expected to be signed into law by President Nicolas Maduro. Based on the indigenous philosophy of vivir bien (living well), the law promotes small and medium size farming using agro-ecological methods rather than monoculture that depends heavily on environmentally harmful chemical interventions. It also expresses a commitment to eco-socialist principles, prioritizing the collective interest in the farming community’s control of the means of production, distribution and consumption of food. This law bans transgenic seeds and thereby avoids the political capture of seed policy by transnational big agriculture–corporate interests while promoting and protecting the heirloom seeds and farming methods of the indigenous, peasant, and afro-descendent communities The semilla campesina will be immune to patents and privatization and come under the control of the communities that share them. The seed is considered a living thing, and as such is not only an object at hand for use in agriculture, but a subject that is entitled to certain rights and protections. These rights, combined with the philosophy of vivir bien and eco-socialist principles form the basis for the development of food sovereignty and food security and of resistance to transnational capture of the nations agricultural policy.
The law is consistent with Article 127 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: “The genome of living things cannot be patented, and the law that refers to bio-ethical principles regulates the matter.” It is also consistent with the Country Plan 2013 -2019 that declares one of the “great historic objectives” to “construct an eco-socialist economic model of production, based on the harmonious relation between man and nature, that guarantees the use and rational and optimal utilization of vital natural resources.” (p. 19-20).
One of the principle values of the law, expressed in Article 8, is that is “promotes, in a spirit of solidarity, the free exchange of seed and opposes the conversion of seed into intellectual or patented property or any other form of privatization.”
With regard to popular power (grass roots democracy), Article 9 provides that a Popular Council will be responsible for the storing, protection and regulation of indigenous, Afro-descendent and peasant seed “with an emphasis on the exchange and local distribution of seed to guarantee our food sovereignty and the construction of an eco-socialist model of economic production.
Important Articles of the Seed Law (unofficial translation)
Article one of the law summarizes its main features:
“The present Law has as its object to preserve, protect, and guarantee the production, propagation, conservation, and free circulation and use of seed, as well as the promotion investigation distribution and commercialization of the same, based on a socialist agro-ecological vision, with the aim of consolidating our food security and sovereignty, prohibiting the release, the use, the propagation, and the entrance into the country and the national production of transgenic seeds as well as the patents and right of the breeder over the seed, in a manner that is sovereign, democratic, participatory, corresponsible and in solidarity, making special emphasis on the valorization of the indigenous, afro-descendent, peasant and local seed, that benefits the bio-diversity and helps to preserve life on the planet in conformity with what is established in the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
Article 2 lays out the goals of the law:
- Promote the transition from conventional systems of production based on monoculture and the use of agro-toxins with agro-industrial and/or corporate seed for conventional use, to an agro-ecological system and the preservation of the environment in the short, medium and long term, based on agro-biodiversity.
- Promote the production of seeds that are necessary to guarantee national production, with the goal of avoiding importation and achieving national sovereignty.
- Promote the transition to communal and eco-socialist agriculture, in order to protect the agro-biodiversity by means of the production of local, campesina, indigenous, and afro-descendent seed.
- Revalorize and delegitimize the local, traditional, and ancestral knowledge wisdom, beliefs and practices of the peasant, indigenous, afro-descendent, and other communities.
- Prohibit the privatization of seed.
- Orient the organization and planning of public policy in function of the different scales of production, distinguishing the policies intended for family agriculture or pluri-culture in small scale production from the policies intended for big producers.
Article 3. Seed is recognized as a living thing and a constituent part of Mother Earth and for this reason it is considered an object as well as the subject of right and the application of norms pertaining to the preservation of life on the Planet and the conservation of biological diversity.
Article 4. The local peasant, indigenous, and afro-descendant seed is declared a common good of public, cultural as well as natural material and immaterial interest of the peoples; this seed is considered a contribution of our communities to the improvement of vegetable varieties and their propagation and preservation for a sustainable form of agriculture that constitutes the basis of our food and our culture.
Article 5. The production, importation, commercialization, distribution, release, use, propagation and entrance into the country of transgenic seed is prohibited. The National System of Seeds will develop and guarantee the technical, organizational, and institutional capacity to prevent, identify, detect, correct, return, and to sanction the violations of this prohibition.
Article 11 of the law also creates a National Seed Commission constituted by officials from several ministries related to agriculture, as well as representatives from both the Presidential Councils that deal with seed policy and the Popular Council for the storage and protection of local, indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant seed. This Commission will be responsible for planning and promoting seed policy as well as facilitating research, development, production and commercialization of seed.
Article 14 creates the National Institute for Seed (INASEM) which will be responsible for providing the material resources and administration necessary for implementing much of the policy developed by the Seed Plan, such as operating labs, offering technical assistance and issuing licenses for the disposition of certain categories of seed. This institute will also include spokespersons from the Presidential Council concerned with seed policy, but is largely a governmental body.