Slow Food

Women Create a Network for Saving Seeds

Italy - 29 Oct 06

The last conference given inside the Mercatale, the area directly outside Pavilion 3 of the Lingotto, was aimed at examining the future of protecting biodiversity; it was also an opportunity to announce a new, revolutionary project that places women at the center. Six special women, all of whom bring enthusiasm and new ideas to their respective spheres of activity, shared stories about the work they do on behalf of biodiversity: Maria Grazia Mammuccini, head of Arsia Toscana (a regional agency for development and innovation in the fields of agriculture and forestry); Cinzia Scaffidi, head of the Slow Food Research Center; Concetta Vazzana, a lecturer at the University of Florence; Sandra Masi, who runs a farm; Cristiana Peano, a teacher and member of Slow Food’s National Ark of Taste Commission; and Vandana Shiva, the celebrated Indian researcher and activist. All of them expressed their support and promised to contribute actively to the creation of a network of women that will defend seeds and their biodiversity. This large worldwide network, which has already been joined by Aminata Traorè, Mali’s former minister of culture, will be introduced officially in 2007, during the San Rossore meeting, organized by the Tuscany Regional Authority, but was announced in advance at the Salone del Gusto. The idea of constructing this network was the brainchild of the International Commission for the Future of Food and Agriculture (of which both Carlo Petrini and Vandana Shiva are part), which in 2003 published and distributed the Manifesto on the Future of Seeds. In the third part of the Manifesto, it says: ‘All over the world, women represent the largest percentage of workers in agriculture, and they are the current and traditional guardians of the security, diversity and quality of seeds. Women are also the principle holders and sharers of knowledge about the quality of food and the ways of preparing it. Thus, their central role in conserving and protecting biodiversity, in the exchange and reproduction of seeds in post-industrial agriculture, must be sustained and strengthened.’ Accepting this invitation, the network of people who protect seed biodiversity wishes to sustain the vital agricultural work that women carry out every day, all over the world. Women’s status as ‘domestic’ figures, for centuries considered in a negative light, can gain a great deal of respect once people begin to appreciate the social and cultural experience and the technical wisdom about the conservation of seeds that only women possess. This, combined with the labor of men, makes the management of subsistence agriculture possible. ‘The urgency of supporting the women who conserve seeds is even stronger,’ explained Vandana Shiva, ‘when one considers that the spread of industrial agriculture has completely excluded women. Only the age-old wisdom of women will lead us from industrial agriculture into ecological agriculture.’