Accepted paper:

Landscapes and seedscapes: struggles for organic sovereignty in Latvia and Costa Rica

Author:

Guntra Aistara (Central European University)

Paper short abstract:

Organic farmers' movements on the margins of global powers are torn between contradictory pressures to simultaneously diversify and “conventionalize” their farms and landscapes. In response, they engage in struggles for "organic sovereignty," complementing a range of global movements for food sovereignty.

Paper long abstract:

The Latvian organic agriculture movement emerged in the 1980s as resistance to Soviet industrialized and collectivized agriculture, but must now comply with European Union (EU) rules, while the Costa Rican movement that began around the same time defines itself as an alternative to US-dominated monoculture plantations, whose power they see as reinforced through the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). This paper shows how local interpretations and enactments of diversity were integral to the creation of culturally meaningful landscapes of organic agriculture in both countries. In Latvia, land regained after de-collectivization has taken on a nearly mythical quality as a symbol of independence at the national and individual levels, while in Costa Rica, seeds are one of the few farming "inputs" over which many small farmers have maintained control despite various socioeconomic shifts and migrations. The paper traces land management practices in Latvia and seed saving and exchange in Costa Rica. It argues that in both countries, organic farmers create vibrant networks of biological and cultural diversity that are under pressure to conform to regulatory standardization associated with Latvia's entry into the EU and Costa Rica's entry into CAFTA. The paper analyzes how organic farmers and their movements located on the margins of global powers are torn between contradictory pressures to simultaneously diversify and "conventionalize" their farms and landscapes. In response, they defend their farmscapes and movements in struggles for "organic sovereignty," complementing a range of global movements for food sovereignty.

panel P038
Soils, seeds and capitalism: political agronomy and the intimacies of farming