Farmer seed networks make a limited contribution to agriculture? Four common misconceptions

Oliver Coomes (Lead Author), Shawn McGuire (Lead Author), Eric Garine, Sophie Caillon, Doyle McKey, Elise Demeulenaere, Devra Jarvis, Guntra Aistara, Adeline Barnaud, Pascal Clouvel, Laure Emperaire, Selim Louafi, Pierre Martin, Francois Massol, Marco Pautasso, Chloe Violon, Jean Wencelius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

175 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


The importance of seed provisioning in food security and nutrition, agricultural development and rural livelihoods, and agrobiodiversity and germplasm conservation is well accepted by policy makers, practitioners and researchers. The role of farmer seed networks is less well understood and yet is central to debates on current issues ranging from seed sovereignty and rights for farmers to GMOs and the conservation of crop germplasm. In this paper we identify four common misconceptions regarding the nature and importance of farmer seed networks today. (1) Farmer seed networks are inefficient for seed dissemination. (2) Farmer seed networks are closed, conservative systems. (3) Farmer seed networks provide ready, egalitarian access to seed. (4) Farmer seed networks are destined to weaken and disappear. We challenge these misconceptions by drawing upon recent research findings and the authors’ collective field experience in studying farmer seed systems in Africa, Europe, Latin America and Oceania. Priorities for future research are suggested that would advance our understanding of seed networks and better inform agricultural and food policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-50
Number of pages10
JournalFood Policy
Early online date12 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


  • Seed supply
  • Farmer seed systems
  • Crop genetic resource management
  • Informal seed sector
  • Planting material circulation
  • Social networks
  • Seed exchange networks for agrobiodiversity conservation. A review

    Pautasso, M., Aistara, G., Barnaud, A., Caillon, S., Clouvel, P., Coomes, O. T., Delêtre, M., Demeulenaere, E., De Santis, P., Döring, T., Eloy, L., Emperaire, L., Garine, E., Goldringer, I., Jarvis, D., Joly, H. I., Leclerc, C., Louafi, S., Martin, P., Massol, F. & 6 others, McGuire, S., McKey, D., Padoch, C., Soler, C., Thomas, M. & Tramontini, S., 1 Jan 2013, In: Agronomy for Sustainable Development. 33, 1, p. 151-175 25 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    171 Citations (Scopus)

Cite this