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QUNO - seeds for food

What is the work about?

An increasing body of evidence pleads in favour of sustainable agriculture. Yet intensive, high-input farming continues to gain ground, with increasing concentration in the food industry. Industrial agriculture systems are high carbon emitters and require chemical inputs. Intellectual property (IP) policy is one factor facilitating industrial agriculture. Quaker United Nations Office Geneva (QUNO) seeks to increase understanding of the dynamics around IP in food production – we believe that this is essential gathering momentum for change towards more sustainable, healthy and people-centred food systems.

Why does it matter?

Diversity of seeds is essential for a resilient and sustainable food system. If farmers buy patented seed varieties they are not allowed to save some of the resulting crop to replant the following year. If seed rules become increasingly restrictive, some indigenous seed varieties may be lost and the choice of whether to save or buy seeds may no longer exist – and the choice of what seeds and foods are available could be drastically reduced, with harsh effects on genetic and cultural diversity.

Who benefits from the work and how?

For people in wealthier countries this lack of diversity will be a regrettable inconvenience. But for people dependent on family-scale agriculture, restricted access to seeds could make the difference between life and death. QUNO feels that is essential to maintain a diversity of farming systems, favour sustainable agriculture and ensure wide availability of seeds.

What action can we take?

  • Support the Quaker placement scheme, which sends programme assistants to QUNO in Geneva each year
  • Donate to Britain Yearly Meeting for QUNO Geneva
  • Visit the QUNO website to keep in touch with the latest news and developments  
Caroline Dommen    +41 22 748 4810