Speaking out against empty promises with hard facts

Small farmers in Nicaragua are taking steps together to defend against major agricultural enterprises that want to import genetically modified seeds. Thanks to field trials financed by SWISSAID, they can prove that local varieties are more economical and respond with greater resistance to climate fluctuations – and yield harvests which are just as plentiful.

“We reject the introduction of genetically modified seeds and GMO plants because they jeopardise the independence and food security of Nicaraguan families!” The message given by the Seeds Alliance at their press conference in March is still relevant. The alliance, which is supported by six national networks and by SWISSAID, represents the interests of around 200,000 farmers and consumers. Until today, the alliance campaigns against government approval, under pressure from a handful of major enterprises, for the introduction of genetically modified seeds for the cultivation of agricultural crops or for experimental, scientific and commercial purposes.

There is good reason for this. “GMO varieties place many requirements upon production that small farmers are unable to meet. And there is no evidence that GMO varieties produce more than local varieties,” explained Alvaro Fiallos, President of the National Association of Farmers and Cattle Breeders (UNAG). He refers here to the fact that genetically modified plants require costly inputs such as chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Facts instead of belief

Thanks to field trials financed by SWISSAID the members of the Seeds Alliance can argue with hard facts for local seeds: local varieties of the staple foods corn and beans yield harvests which are just as plentiful as the cultivated hybrids. In addition, they are more economical and respond with greater resistance to climate fluctuations, making production less expensive and more secure. Thanks to the diversity, those varieties can be selected which thrive best under different ecological and climatic conditions.

The Seeds Alliance has campaigned since 2006 for the recognition, preservation and further development of local seed varieties, and thus to safeguard biodiversity in Nicaragua. So far, 141 local varieties of beans, 127 varieties of corn, 38 sorghum and 9 rice varieties could be identified. More than 400 seed banks were set up with local seeds, and thousands of farmers and their families have access to this impressive genetic legacy.

Small farmers feed the country

The campaign against genetically modified varieties from other countries unites all small farmers and medium-sized producers in Nicaragua – they account for 90 per cent of all domestic producers. They are the businesses that feed Nicaragua. The small farmers are clear about one thing; they do not require highly engineered, risky seeds – they need support in the efficient and sustainable use of existing resources.
 

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Project number: NC 2/16/10

Project costs: (Swiss francs 144,766 + 14% PLE): Swiss francs 165,033

Duration: 18 months

Beneficiaries: 35,000 farmers who are supervised by the Seeds Alliance; male and female consumers