Seed Sovereignty as Decommodification: A Perspective from Subsistence Peasant Communities in the Global South

Authors: Carol Hernandez Rodriguez*, Programa Universitario de Bio├ętica (Bioethics University Program) UNAM
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Native seeds, maize, milpa, subsistence agriculture, Green Revolution, Agrochemicals
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 22
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


When analyzing threats to native seeds, most of the seed sovereignty literature mainly focuses on two issues: seed enclosure through the imposition of intellectual property rights and seed laws; and potential genetic contamination caused by exposure to GMOs. However, little attention has been placed on the risks that ongoing environmental deterioration caused by the widespread use of agrochemicals and climate change pose to subsistence agriculture and peasant seed sovereignty in the global South. Drawing on ethnographic research in the indigenous central region of Chiapas, Mexico, where the insurgent Zapatista movement has a strong influence and seed sovereignty initiatives are rapidly spreading, this paper examines three questions: How do subsistence communities conceptualize their seed sovereignty? What are the main threats perceived by peasants to their seed sovereignty, and how do they respond to them? And how do local agendas of seed sovereignty relate to the broader ideologies, goals, and strategies of the global seed sovereignty movement? A central argument in this article is that local understandings of seed sovereignty as a protected commons are converging in a multidimensional decommodification agenda of peasant agriculture that is closely linked to the regional project of indigenous autonomy. In this paper, the analysis is focused on one specific decommodification agenda: to reverse the widespread chemicalization of subsistence agriculture.

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