Research Topic

Agriculture condenses the most pressing challenges humans are facing today: demographic explosion, market instabilities and environmental exhaustion. Despite the massive increase in food crop production it facilitated in the past century, the intensification of agriculture has proved to be noxious. Driven by a quest for monetary profits the agro-industry spreads worldwide at the expense of ecological and social welfare. Beside soils and water contamination, the FAO estimates that some 75% of plant genetic diversity was dropped out of the fields in the course of the past century. This exhaustion was caused by the massive distribution of high-yielding varieties, fitting with productiveness requirement and the narrow criteria of Distinctness Homogeneity and Stability (DHS) asserted by the agroindustry. After decades of production intensification through monoculture and chemicals, international policy makers and civil society are now stressing the importance of agrobiodiversity, and low input cultivation as key steps toward sustainable agriculture. It is now widely acknowledged that the possibility of nurturing a growing population in the context of climate upheavals will depend on our capacity to expand the gamut of cultivated crop varieties.

International institutions’ reports have pointed out the vital role of value assessment to implement favourable conditions for the restoration of plentiful agriculture. However, value discrepancies are key obstacles toward variegated fields which are labour intensive, while only offering precarious livelihood in the capitalist economy. If we are to promote agricultural practices that foster human and non-human flourishing, we need to appreciate the multiplicity of crops existences, and understand how their values articulate with market prices. This question is not only vital to the billion people who rely on farm saved seeds for their survival. Maintaining high agrobiodiversity is also crucial for maintaining lively soils and water, fostering thereby the restoration of exhausted ecologies. In such a context, it is concerning that we lack fundamental knowledge on the importance of crops in agricultural communities across the globe. This project fills this gap by scrutinising seeds’ values in domestication centres where growers continue to care for increased diversity of plants in their fields, despite little monetary reward on capitalist markets.