Bolivia Signs Food Security Law, Aims to Reduce Dependence on Foreign Companies

Evo Morales photo

Image: Wikipedia

Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a law this week aimed at increasing the nation's food security. Part of the plan is to set up state-owned companies to produce seeds and fertilizers. The government will also establish a state seed bank for native plants, helping to preserve local biodiversity and native foods. It's an exciting step, considering the direction the global food system is headed, but especially for Bolivia, a country with some of the greatest remaining biodiversity in the world. The country also has abundant indigenous foods like quinoa, but the world's increasing taste for the grain has brought troubles to Bolivia.Violent protests over food shortages and rising prices took place earlier this year, as people were forced to give up indigenous staples in favor of cheaper, imported products like pasta, according to the BBC.

BBC explains the new law:

The government plans to invest $5bn (£3.1bn) over 10 years, with generous credits to small farmers, in order to bring about what it calls a food revolution to ensure Bolivians can feed themselves for generations to come.

"My comrades, when we act as players in the production, we are going to improve this production," President Morales told a crowd of supporters.

And the president is embracing an approach to agriculture that I wish would catch on here at home:

The Morales government wants to improve genetic stock through natural selection.

It rejects what it describes as an invasion of genetically-modified seeds, fearing they will contaminate indigenous species, and prove to be too expensive for small farmers to buy.

Lisa Panades, Bolivia's representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said the legislation would benefit the small, most vulnerable farmers. She told the BBC: "The law on its own is not enough, but I think that - with the government's backing - if the law is applied well, there are excellent conditions for Bolivia to guarantee its food sovereignty."

More on Bolivia, biodiversity and food security:
Quinoa's Popularity Boon (& Bust) for Bolivia
Indigenous Tourism and Biodiversity Website Award

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