Seeking unconventional alliances and bridging innovations in spaces for transformative change: the seed sector and agricultural sustainability in Argentina

Journal Article

Experimental spaces for learning about and nurturing processes of social-ecological transformation are of increasing interest; a reflection, in part, of a more interventionist approach to sustainability research and funding. We reflect on our experience in Argentina facilitating a multistakeholder transformative space to identify and discuss agricultural sustainability challenges associated with seed market concentration, and to explore social innovations in the seed sector that can help foster more sustainable pathways of change in agricultural systems. We argue that in facilitating such a process, it is important to understand the diversity of perspectives on the meanings and functions of seed systems, the agricultural sustainability challenges those systems give rise to and of potential solutions, and to work with and from those divergent perspectives to identify areas of actionable consensus or potential affinities between actors who otherwise understand or prioritize agricultural sustainability in different ways. We suggest that ideas for intervention that are able to exploit common ground are more likely to be politically and practically viable. We illustrate this claim with a proposal for an open source seed licensing system, which potentially addresses distinctive concerns about strict intellectual property rules on the part of domestic seed breeders, farmers, rural social movements, and parts of government, who otherwise adopt different perspectives on desired agricultural futures. We suggest that this kind of bridging innovation may help to reconfigure social relations around seed systems in ways that can open up space for more sustainable pathways of agricultural change.