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Grassroots Seed-Conservation Movement, Greece


Peasant seeds are making a comeback in Greece especially thanks to a growing movement of young people going back to farming. In the wake of the financial crisis in which young people face unemployment rates as high as 50%, people are going back to the land. Many of them still have family in the rural areas and have found access to land this way. They are interested in local production and many want to farm according to traditional peasant practices and peasant seeds. Reflecting this interest, seed savers’ organisations have been organising seed festivals and exchanges in the past few years, with thousands of people showing up to exchange the varieties still used by their grandparents and to select them to increase the diversity in their fields and gardens. They see this work as rescuing some of the most valuable heritage of Greece, since it is estimated that only 1% of farmland in the country is still cultivated with older varieties of cereals and vegetables. In the national seed bank where many older varieties were still maintained, a shortage of funding due to budget cuts has meant that 5,000 out of the 14,500 varieties that were kept there have been destroyed.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Grassroots Seed-Conservation Movement, Greece
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific commodities:Seeds

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

Greek farmers can apply to get certain subsidies for their crops, something known as a ‘quality bonus.’ But the standard of what is considered as high quality has increasingly been tied to the use of certified seeds, especially in field crops such as durum wheat, requiring farmers to show proof of purchase to receive support. Despite all of this, some farmers are still relying on older wheat varieties traditional to the areas where they farm. For example, in the Thessaly region, the increasing price of commercial wheat and the decrease in subsidies of competing commercial crops such as cotton has led farmers to experiment with older varieties that were still popular 50 years ago and are still found in the national catalogue. Thus, fields that used to be sown with the industrial varieties are now replaced with older wheat plants such as ‘mavragani’ with their characteristic darker awns. The same is true for other crops such as grapes, melons, eggplant and fruit trees.

Most of the groups participating in the movement of seed conservation are small gardeners. But as people go back to the land and make their living through farming, the number of farmers who are participating is also increasing. One of the main challenges they face is that the knowledge about selecting seeds has not been passed on to the younger generations. As a result, in the last few years, the seed movement in Greece has focused on promoting education about seed selection through seed schools that take place across Greece. In addition to practical know-how and establishing community seed houses, the schools discuss the legal situation facing farmers, as well as the possibilities that farmers can use in order to sell and process their harvests.

Type of populationUnknown
Start of the conflict:01/01/2012

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Urban youth
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures


Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Fostering a culture of peace
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Law no 1564. “Organization of Production and Marketing of Propagating Material of Plant Species” (only Article 8 available in English)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

The end Of FarmSaved Seeds?

The criminalisation of peasant seeds: How farmers are resisting

La Via Campesina and GRAIN

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

New York Times "With Work Scarce in Athens, Greeks Go Back to the Land"

Protecting Seeds within Greek Crisis

Institutional support of local varieties diminishes, while grassroots networks flourish

Other documents

Saving seeds Source:

Meta information

Contributor:Ejolt team
Last update11/02/2015



Saving seeds