Over 70,000 Catholics from across England and Wales have signed a letter to the World Bank calling on it to help fix the global food system.
The letter, which was also signed by 18 Catholic bishops, says farmers must retain the right to use their own seeds. It was handed over to World Bank staff in London by the Catholic aid agency CAFOD. It was also presented at the annual World Bank meetings taking place this week in Marrakech, Morocco.
The letter from Salina, a farmer in Bangladesh, calls for the protection of the fundamental rights of small farmers like herself to use their own varieties of seeds – a right that is increasingly under threat as big seed companies have come to dominate the global seed market.
It's part of CAFOD's food campaign 'Fix the Food System', which is urging the UK government and institutions, including the World Bank, to protect the right of farmers worldwide to save, use, exchange and sell their own seeds.
In some countries, new seed laws have been insisted on by the World Bank in exchange for financial support. Yet, CAFOD says these laws prevent farmers from sharing seeds as they have done for generations and instead force them to buy seeds from big agribusinesses.
CAFOD's Campaigns and Outreach Manager, Helen Moseley, said: "We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who signed Salina's letter. Her message to the World Bank has been heard loud and clear: unfair rules putting pressure on small farmers to buy commercial seeds aren't acceptable. They can push farmers and the communities they feed into poverty, food insecurity and reduce their resilience to climate change."
CAFOD campaigners handing in Salina's letter were received by senior World Bank staff who agreed to meet and discuss the issue.
"It was a very cordial meeting and we explained how much support our campaign has received across the country from ordinary parishioners," said Father Rob Esdaile, who handed over the letter to World Bank staff and whose own parish, St Dunstan's in Woking, was one of the 750 parishes who supported the campaign.
Bishop Tom Neylon from the Liverpool Archdiocese said: "I support CAFOD's Fix the Food System campaign because it's highlighting the situation that small-scale farmers around the world are increasingly finding themselves in. Caught in a huge power imbalance with large agribusiness, even their rights to their own seeds passed down from generation to generation are being threatened."