Seed Sovereignty

Seed Sovereignty

Project Team

Alexandra Lyon, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Faculty of Land and Food Systems (PI)

Hannah Wittman, Professor, Academic Director, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Faculty of Land and Food Systems; Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (Co-PI)


Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


FarmFolk CityFolk  

About the Project

Why does local seed matter? Conceptualizing linkages between community seed systems, seed sovereignty and food sovereignty in British Columbia

Improving the resilience of agri-food systems has become an increasingly pressing policy and civil society concern. Improving and maintaining access to a diverse range of agricultural seed sources is often invoked as a crucial element to this end. Food sovereignty movements, in particular, approach the goal of food system resilience through the empowerment of local communities and emphasize the importance of seed sovereignty: communities’ ability to freely save and exchange seed and genetic resources. Local systems of seed production and exchange, long common in subsistence farming communities, are increasingly the focus of social organizing for seed sovereignty in Canada.

This research will use a seed sovereignty framework to examine the social organization of community seed networks. We take a working definition of seed sovereignty from La Via Campesina’s assertion of “the right of peoples to recover, defend, reproduce, exchange, improve, and grow their own seed” (La Via Campesina 2009). From this standpoint, we will ask: How do the discourses and practices of multiple stakeholder groups (farmers, seed growers, activists, etc.) shape the construction of a community seed system? How do different groups in this community conceptualize connections between seed production and exchange activities and seed sovereignty goals? How do the discourses and practices of seed sovereignty intersect with the broader objective of food sovereignty?