Farmers defend their rights against a new seed law, Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan farmers on the streets fighting to preserve their traditional knowledge and against seed restrictions promoted new law

<div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Description</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld"></td><td class="columns">Sri Lankan farmers are currently opposing a new law proposal called the ‘Seed and Planting Material Act’. Organised in a network of over 700 organisations working for the rights of farmers called MONLAR, they have held marches and mass protests. The new draft law would require the mandatory registration of farmers and the certification of their seeds. In addition to requiring the state to maintain a list of seed producers and suppliers, the law authorises government officials to raid farms in search of ‘illegal’ seeds. If such ‘illegal’ seeds are found, farmers would have to pay a minimum fine of Rs. 50 000 (US$380) and could go to jail for up to six months. The law benefits industrial seeds by rendering them the only legal ones, to the detriment of both farmers and state-run programmes producing essential crops such as rice. Those in favour of the law say that it is needed to safeguard farmers from seeds of bad quality on the market. However, farmers argue that this is not a main concern for them because, at the village level, they know who produces the seeds that they buy locally. The issue of bad quality seed on the market is more of an issue for multinational companies which want to safeguard their monopolies. With the law, this extends to protecting monopolies on other ‘planting material’ including green manure made by farmers— in favour of the companies who produce synthetic inputs. Finally, Sri Lankan farmers are also concerned that the new law will disrupt their collective seed use. In many villages, farmers maintain small seed houses that distribute seeds at the local level. Under the new law, these, too, would become illegal. In addition to losing their own seeds that are adapted to their needs and tastes, farmers argue that purchasing certified seeds and other inputs would add a burden of cost that will put their livelihood at risk. For this reason, farmers all over the country are mobilising. In October 2014, a group of 4,000 farmers, agricultural workers, fishers and people supporting food sovereignty and land reform travelled through 25 different cities in the country as part of a Caravan for Seed and Food Sovereignty. In addition to marches and rallies, they presented their crops and also held community theatre presentations in order to convey to the public in the streets what they are struggling to protect and defend.(1)</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Basic Data</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Name</td><td>Farmers defend their rights against a new seed law, Sri Lanka</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Country</td><td><a href="/country/sri-lanka">Sri Lanka</a></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Source of Conflict</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (1st level)</td><td>Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (2nd level)</td><td>GMOs<br /> Biopiracy and bio-prospection</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Specific Commodities</td><td>seeds</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Project Details and Actors</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Type of Population</td><td>Rural</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Start Date</td><td>01/01/2014</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Relevant government actors</td><td>- National Freedom Front (NFF) <br/><br/>- Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Environmental justice organisations and other supporters</td><td>- MONLAR (the Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform)<br/><br/>- Navdanya<br/><br/>- National Women's Federation (VIKALPANI)<br/><br/>- National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO)</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">The Conflict and the Mobilization</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)</td><td>MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">When did the mobilization begin</td><td>PREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Groups Mobilizing</td><td>Farmers<br /> Indigenous groups or traditional communities<br /> Local ejos<br /> Local government/political parties<br /> Neighbours/citizens/communities<br /> Social movements<br /> Local scientists/professionals</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Forms of Mobilization</td><td>Development of a network/collective action<br /> Involvement of national and international NGOs<br /> Media based activism/alternative media<br /> Public campaigns<br /> Street protest/marches<br /> Caravan for Seed and Food Sovereignty</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Impacts</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Environmental Impacts</td><td><strong>Potential: </strong>Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Health Impacts</td><td><strong>Potential: </strong>Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Socio-economic Impacts</td><td><strong>Potential: </strong>Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Outcome</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Status</td><td>Proposed (exploration phase)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Pathways for conflict outcome / response</td><td>Under negotiation</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Do you consider this as a success?</td><td>Not Sure</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Why? Explain briefly.</td><td>It will depend on the parliament vote</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Sources and Materials</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Legislations</td><td><table><tr><td><p> Seed Act, n°22 of 2003 -  An act to regulate the quality of seeds and planting material<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">References</td><td><table><tr><td><p> The Law of the Seed<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Links</td><td><table><tr><td><p> (1)GRAIN, Sri Lanka: farmers seeds becoming illegal<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform - Proposed Seed Act in Sri Lanka; A threat to life, Fight for rights!<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Navdanya is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 17 states in India<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Other Documents</td><td><table><tr><td><p> <a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong>Street protest</strong> <br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong>The People's Caravan for Seed and Food Sovereignty- MONLAR, Sri Lanka</strong> <br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Meta Information</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Contributor</td><td>Carolina Modena</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Last update</td><td>18/10/2016</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div>