MST and Agroecology: BioNatur (Organic) Seeds

The Bionatur Network for Agro-ecological Seeds (or in Portuguese Rede Bionatur de Sementes Agroecológicas) is one of the strategic tools that the MST organized for the development of the actions of its Seeds Campaign and the promotion of agro-ecology.

(Bionatur is the MST’s own organic seed producer. Organic farmers who after two harvests that have been cultivated with natural products, without use of chemicals, can be classified as organic. These farmers, many members of Brazil’s Landless Movement, will be able to sell them to the movement’s own organic seed producer, Bionatur. The Bionatural Network offers an alternative to the use of genetically-modified seeds and chemical farming.)

The embryo of Bionatur germinated, in 1997, with initiatives to organically produce horticultural seeds in the southern half of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, more specifically in the regions of Hulha Negra and Candiota Mineral. The initiatives were co-coordinated by COOPERAL (Cooperativa Regional dos Agricultores Assentados, the Board of Regional Cooperatives of Agricultural Settlements). COOPERAL sought to construct alternatives to the process of industrial integration of agriculture based on technological models of agro-chemical development promoted by the seed companies in the region. Coincidently, this region is home to the 10 largest national and international companies in the country, which spend about US$75 million [annually] to produce and control a market of predominantly horticultural hybrids to the detriment of [the production and availability of] natural seed varieties.

The seed-producing companies located in this region because of its superior topsoil and a climate ideal for the production of high quality species of seeds, which require cold temperatures followed by higher temperatures and lower humidity in the spring and summer to reproduce.
In the period 1997-2002, the COOPERAL was in charge of the process of organizing Bionatur. In 2003, with the advent of the Seeds Campaign, the support and coordination of Bionatur passed to the National Collective’s Sector of Production, under the auspices of the MST, which reorganized it into Rede Bionatur de Sementes Agroecológicas. This initiative formalized Bionatur’s already existing presence in diverse cities throughout the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná, Minas Gerais and in various phases of formation in Mato Grosso, Goiás, District Federal and Sergipe. Together they yielded a harvest in 2004 of approximately 7.0 tons of seed, made up of more than 90 varieties of plants, all organic.