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INTRODUCTION

We, the actors of the private seed sector, representing its diversity, acting as individuals or as representatives of co-operatives, family-, small-, medium sized- or multinational companies, based around the world, are committed to a future where enough affordable, safe and nutritious food is produced for all without compromising the economies, societies or environments of future generations.

To that end, we welcome the UN Food Systems Summit, set to take place in September 2021, which represents an important opportunity to build a shared understanding and solutions in pursuit of a global food system that contributes to the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ahead of the Summit, we declare that we:

  • ACKNOWLEDGE the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) definition of a sustainable food system as one that delivers food security and nutrition for all without compromising the economic, social and environmental bases for future generations;
  • NOTE that, since the dawn of agriculture and even more so since scientific discovery in biology and genetics, plant breeders and farmers have been innovating, improving plants, and increasing yields for hundreds of years;
  • ACKNOWLEDGE that increased agricultural output has driven significant social and economic progress, but now faces the major challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, declining soil health, and diminishing resources;
  • ACKNOWLEDGE that the global food system is failing to serve all, but there is no one-size-fi ts-all-solution; and that whilst hunger and micronutrient defi ciencies grow in some areas, obesity is a major issue elsewhere;
  • ACKNOWLEDGE the enormous challenge for agriculture to produce sufficient, safe, and nutritious food for a global population, expected to reach 10 billion by 2050;
  • NOTE that seed is the basis of all crop production, and that the seed sector is a foundational contributor to the production
    of food;
  • NOTE that the seed sector is diverse and competitive, consisting of multiple large players and thousands of smaller players in seed markets segmented by crop and geographical location;
  • NOTE that seed is the vital starting point for all crop production; that without it, there can be no harvest; and that this makes the seed sector a critical partner in the mission to end hunger and to achieve food security and nutrition for all;

HOW THE PRIVATE SEED SECTOR CONTRIBUTES

In discussing how the seed sector can best contribute to the SDGs, we, the signatories of this Declaration:

  • RECOGNISE that food systems must become more equitable, inclusive, and environmentally friendly; and that – whether we engage as individual players or as a sector – our most salient contributions are likely to be towards the UN SDGs on poverty, hunger, economic growth, climate action, biodiversity, responsible consumption and production, and partnerships;

SDG 1 – End poverty in all its forms everywhere

 
  • NOTE that the immense task of ending poverty necessarily requires support for smallholder farmers, who represent as much as two thirds of African and Asian populations;
  • NOTE that quality seeds help alleviate poverty by boosting yields and yield security, allowing smallholder farmers to better nourish themselves and to obtain income;

SDG 2 – End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

 

  • NOTE that the UN’s 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report shows the number of hungry people has been growing slowly but consistently since 2014, and that, unless action is taken, more than 840 million people could be undernourished by 2030, not to mention those who suffer malnutrition through the lack of essential vitamins and minerals;
  • NOTE that, on current trends, the world must produce 50 percent more food by 2050; that crop yields must therefore increase at higher than historical rates; and that this increased production must not come from deforestation or any other expansion of agricultural land;
  • NOTE that throughout its history the seed sector has contributed to increased yields, for example in the European Union, where improved seeds boosted crop productivity for nine core arable crops by an average of 20 percent in 15 years, or in Africa, where new maize varieties yield 20 to 30 percent more than other varieties to the benefit of 30 to 40 million people;
  • ACKNOWLEDGE that the world will need to produce and consume more protein sources, such as wholegrains, legumes, nuts, fresh vegetables and fruits; that the seed sector will need to help identify these sources, the so-called “orphan crops”; and that it will need to improve these varieties, too;

SDG 8 – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

 

  • NOTE that in large areas of the world, agriculture is the most sizeable source of jobs and livelihoods, and that this is especially true for the most vulnerable and excluded sectors of society, including the poor, women, and rural populations;
  • NOTE that, for many of these farmers, the seed sector remains a significant potential source of increased income through improved yields, resistance, resilience, adaptability and crop knowledge; but that only 10 percent of the
    world’s smallholder farmers access quality seeds;
  • ASSERT that therefore the seed sector has a significant role to play in the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth for some of the world’s most marginalised populations, including decent work;

SDG 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

 

  • ACKNOWLEDGE that each year, an estimated one third of all food produced – equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes worth about USD 1 trillion – ends up rotting in rubbish bins or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting;
  • ACKNOWLEDGE that land degradation, declining soil fertility, and unsustainable water use all inhibit our natural resource base from supplying food; but that improved seed and good agricultural practices can
    help to overcome this challenge;
  • ASSERT that more resilient seeds with better product-shelf life can help to reduce food waste; and that the seed industry is committed to collaborate with the value chain for more responsible production and consumption;
  • ASSERT that the seed sector is helping to reduce agricultural water use by developing varieties, which require less water for their growth; that improved seeds also require less land, lessening the rates of land conversion and deforestation; and that by enabling agriculture to grow
    more with less, improved seeds lead to a smaller environmental
    footprint.

SDG 13 – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

 

  • NOTE that more than one quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry, and land-use change, and that – without
    action – these emissions are likely to increase as the global population grows;
  • NOTE that agricultural emissions must be reduced by two-thirds from 2010 levels in order to keep global temperature rise to less than 2°C;
  • NOTE that farmers are also impacted by climate change, which brings unstable weather patterns, disease, pests, and extreme weather events, such as droughts and flooding;
  • ASSERT that the seed sector can help reduce agricultural emissions by breeding crop plants to better capture carbon, for example, by developing plants with extensive root systems;
  • ASSERT that the seed industry can help farmers adapt to climate change by developing crops that are more resistant to drought and other symptoms of a changing climate.

SDG 15 – Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

 

  • ACKNOWLEDGE that the world needs to shift its current patterns of food production and consumption in order to curb biodiversity loss and deforestation;
  • NOTE that the 2019 IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem services finds that the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards the SDGs, notably on poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land;
  • NOTE that the seed sector relies on genetic resources to continue improving seeds; and that the sector helps protect biodiversity through its support for access and benefit sharing mechanisms, such as the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD);
  • ASSERT that the seed sector also contributes to create new diversity among varieties. In a recent study it was demonstrated that the diversity of tomato varieties considerably increased since the 1970s.

SDG 17 – Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

 

  • NOTE that global and regional crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and outbreaks of plant pest and disease, have led to crop failures in Africa, Latin
    America and Asia, highlighting the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our food systems and global food supply chains;
  • NOTE that the seed sector shares the common unifying goal of providing quality seed for farmers around the world, including in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Continuous adapted varieties and good quality seed enable farmers to maximise yield while remaining resistant to climate change, pests, and diseases;
  • AFFIRM that the complexities of the challenges above require everybody in the food value chain to collaborate, including the public and private sectors; and that this collaboration is the only way to a global food system fit for the future.

OUR COMMITMENTS

Based on the above, we the signatories commit to:

  • SUPPORT the Food Systems Summit’s five Action Tracks, through our participation in the Summit and beyond, providing input throughout the upcoming year;
  • CONTINUE investing in science and innovation to Develop and Produce varieties that are locally adapted to farmers’ needs;
  • DIALOGUE with any potential partner that shares our goal of feeding the world’s growing population, including multilaterals, governments, regional authorities, and public bodies;
  • CONTINUE our support for the conservation of genetic resources and biodiversity;
  • CONTINUE to lay the foundation to provide consumers with food that is healthy, safe, nutritious, and varied;
  • ADVOCATE so that farmers around the world areable to access the seed of their choice, at the right time, and in the right place;
  • SHOW integrity and demonstrate openness; continue to share information in the agricultural space to be open to ideas, and above all else to contribute to the evolution of food systems for the future of our world.

OUR ASKS

To support the private seed sector’s contributions to the SDGs, we ask that our partners:

  • RECOGNISE the foundational contribution of the seed sector to reach the goals of the food systems summit and the SDGs and invite and implicate our representatives at national and international level;
  • SUPPORT the private seed sector in exploring and utilizing the potential benefits of the latest plant breeding methods, including genome editing, which can, and will, accelerate the improvement of seed
    varieties;
  • SUPPORT the adoption of harmonized and sciencebased regulations for seeds and plant breeding, which creates the necessary guarantees for the farmers and allows for the safe international movement of seeds,
  • RECOGNISE that if the global seed supply chains break this negatively impacts on the food supply chains and cannot deliver to consumers. This could quickly lead to dangerous food shortages;
  • KEEP markets functioning, including by keeping borders open to allow the free and efficient movement of seed and prevent crises like COVID-19 crisis from transforming into a hunger crisis, too;
  • SUPPORT seed sector use of genetic resources, essential to new seed varieties, by supporting improvements to the work of bodies, such as the ITPGRFA and CBD.

SIGNATORIES

As of 9 March 2021, over 200 seed companies and seed associations, representing thousands of seed companies, have signed the declaration, including the following companies and associations:

Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe