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Seeds of resilience: the contribution of commons-based plant breeding and seed production to the social-ecological resilience of the agricultural sector

Building resilience in food systems is a priority to meet societal challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss. However, there has been little systematic research on the role of seed production in fostering agroecological resilience.The increasing commercialization and privatization in the conventional seed industry result in the development and use of only a small number of high-yielding varieties.

To counter this trend, new organizational approaches and governance structures in plant breeding and seed production build upon common ownership and collective management. The study analyses how commons-oriented seed production promotes agroecological resilience in comparison to conventional private-property-based seed production. The authors apply an indicator-based framework to analyse publications from breeding and seed-producing organizations in the German-speaking vegetable seed sector.

In comparison to conventional seed production, commons structures promote agroecological resilience in several respects. They foster diversity at the genetic, crop species, and landscape level, create redundancy in seed supply channels, and increase autonomy from external resource inputs and international markets. The governance structures of commons-based seed production contribute to agroecological resilience through a high degree of self-organization of farmers and breeders along the value chain, participatory breeding approaches, and greater access rights to seeds.