Greetings and welcome to CAP’s Green Action Week (GAW) 2023 fair. The GAW theme this year is “sharing community” which aims to promote sustainable, collaborative, equitable, and creative ways of being in the world. CAP is focusing on seed sharing this year wherein we have organised several events to raise public awareness regarding community and farmers’ seed systems which enshrine seed saving and sharing.
Industrial agriculture and the force behind commercialisation of seeds in Malaysia have eroded our seed diversity, agrobiodiversity, and the farmers’ seed system. Besides losing our indigenous plant varieties and seeds due to seeds being treated as a commodity, we have also lost much of our traditional food knowledge and culture.
Do you all know that about 90% of vegetable growers in Malaysia depend on imported seeds? Fortune Business Insights reported that the global commercial seed market size valued at USD 40.70 billion in 2017 is projected to reach USD 61.32 billion by the end of 2025. This global seed market is dominated by ten companies of which some are big players in the agrochemical market. It is no wonder that most often when farmers purchase seeds, these are bundled with agrochemicals.
We need to regain control of our seeds. Hence CAP’s campaign goal is to mainstream the farmers’ seed system and community seed reserves. We are doing it by raising awareness of local and indigenous varieties of plants through seed-sharing fairs such as today. We are also promoting seed saving and sharing among farmers and gardeners. In this regard, quite a number of community seed reserves have been established and the seed guardians, including CAP, have been documented by the Inisiatif Rizab Benih Komuniti.
Prior to this fair, CAP hosted a public webinar on 12 September to highlight the impacts of genetic engineering and seed commercialisation. Many of the participants including the public do not know that since 2010 till now Malaysia has allowed the import of 57 genetically modified events such as maize/corn, soybean, potato, alfalfa, sugar beet, cotton, canola and oilseed rape for food, feed and processing.
CAP with other organizations and farmers movements has also been cautioning Malaysia not to join the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (commonly known as UPOV91). UPOV91 would pose some restrictions to the use of farm-saved seeds, propagating materials of PVP-protected varieties, and their exchange and sale by farmers.
Without our traditional seed diversity, our farmers and growers will lose resilience in dealing with challenges such as the changing climate, disease and pest attacks. All of us must rise up and defend our individual and collective rights to seeds. We need to inculcate the importance of seed sovereignty to our children, the future generation.
In this regard, CAP conducted an art competition and collage-making with “Seeds are Our Heritage” as the theme. We saw the participation of schools in all five districts in Penang. For the art competition among primary schools students, from Standard 4 to 6, we had a total of 95 students from 18 schools sending their entries. A seed collage-making competition was conducted on 23 September in which 60 students divided into 20 groups of three from a total of 17 secondary schools in Penang participated.
The competition was a fun artistic way to impart knowledge about seeds to children. The artwork were amazing and we were captivated by the contestants deep-thinking, creativity, and understanding of the issue. CAP wishes to thank the Penang State Education Department and all the schools, students, teachers and volunteers who were involved. We also deeply appreciate the judges of the competition who volunteered to take on this arduous task of deciding on the winners out of all the extraordinary artworks.
Please make sure you visit the gallery where we have put up the artwork when you visit the stalls at the fair. Today you will also learn more from our line of speakers who will share knowledge about heirloom seeds, seed collection and saving methods, how to do sprouting and make nutritious drinks from nuts. We also have chemical-free farm inputs, vegetables and fruits for sale.
Most importantly please share the seeds and saplings that you have brought along. We need to make seed sharing a norm to build our resilience, increase our agrobiodiversity, and foster collaborative action to promote food security and seed sovereignty. Seeds are central to our life, and we must ensure it is not commodified for the interest of a few. Save and share seeds, our natural heritage.
Mohideen Abdul Kader
Consumers’ Association of Penang
7 October 2023
Note: Green Action Week is a joint action campaign to promote sustainable consumption at the community, country, regional and international levels. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) started the Green Action Week Swedish campaign in 1990 and the international campaign in 2010 to showcase activities undertaken by organisations around the world that contribute to bringing about a better world for all. SSNC undertakes this campaign in collaboration with Consumers International, of which CAP is a member.