MANCHESTER, United Kingdom — Today, people live in a world of vast and complex global interconnectedness, but many years ago – hundreds, thousands of years ago – their communities were their worlds. Feeding themselves was a community effort. People passed knowledge between themselves to understand how to sow, nurture, harvest and preserve seeds and crops. It was integral for each community’s sustained survival. Globalization of agriculture may have benefitted the global economy, but it leaves the planet and local communities in dire straits.
What is the Globalization of Agriculture?
In the early 2000s, global agriculture trading boomed. This increase in both direct and indirect connectedness between countries allowed low-income countries an opportunity to engage more in the global economy. However, large corporations that develop hybrid seeds, such as Bayer, usually own the seeds that countries trade between themselves. This prevents them from preservation for future crops. After one season, the seeds revert to their parent plant, making it impossible to foresee how they will evolve and whether they can be sown again. It leaves farmers and communities trapped in a cycle where large corporations become, according to Civil Eats, “landlords of seeds, renting to farmers and other growers year after year and making billions in profit.” So, while the globalization of agriculture may have increased connectedness between countries, the negative impact of globalization is far greater.
Damage to the Communities
Farmers become dependent on large corporations. In Kenya, local farmers are fighting against a law prohibiting the distribution of locally developed “uncertified seeds.” They argue that hybrid seeds are not in the long-run cost-effective, so as well as damaging the biodiversity of the area. This law will also limit the farmers’ ability to contribute to their community’s economy.
Biodiversity is essential to the sustainability of our natural world and the reduction of biodiversity due to globalization has greatly damaged our planet. This becomes a vicious cycle, where hybrid seeds affect biodiversity, weakening our environment’s resilience to changing weather patterns and resulting in a reduced crop yield.
Other negative impacts of the globalization of agriculture are more social in nature. Approximately 300,000 Indian farmers have died by suicide since 1995 as a result of the debt incurred after investing in hybrid seeds that do not yield. The cycle of globalization destroys indigenous agriculture practices, eliminates biodiversity, and chips away at local economies, and lives.
How Seed Sharing Can Re-Build Local Economies
Food is a fundamental need of humans; all living things must consume in order to survive. Globalization of agriculture means that large corporations decide what the world eats and it is having increasingly damaging effects on the planet and farming communities. Remedying this would involve returning to the indigenous practice of seed saving and seed sharing, whereby farmers themselves preserve and develop seeds and then share them locally or regionally amongst communities.
Biodiversity and crop resilience would increase, in turn, reducing crop failure and building community resilience and economic stability. Some villages in Nepal are reverting to an organic, native approach to farming, as a retaliation for the hybrid seeds that have destroyed the biodiversity that once existed. Farmers say that where they once had 4,300 varieties of rice in the 1990s, now they have only 150. By taking back an indigenous practice that globalization has tried to diminish, “communities can build reliable access to healthy, culturally appropriate food options,” according to Global Giving.
Biodiversity is integral to the sustainability of the planet and local communities. The globalization of agriculture has made seeds a billion-dollar industry that can only function on the exploitation of local farmers. Local economies can grow and develop by returning to a more organic way of building economies; by using indigenous practices that place community before profit. There should be no problem in reverting to the past when it allows us to sow seeds for the future.
– Eloïse Jones