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A political ontology of seeds

The transformative frictions of a farmers' movement in Europe

Elise Demeulenaere

Keywords: commons; epistemic advocacy; ontology; peasantness; seeds; social movements

This article follows the trajectory of a French farmers' movement that contests the seed production and regulation system set in place during agricultural modernization. It focuses on the creativity of the movement, which ranges from semantic innovations (such as “peasant seeds”) to the reinvention of onfarm breeding practices based on new scientific paradigms, and includes new alliances with the social movements defending the commons. The trajectory of the movement is shaped by its encounters—with scientists, other international seed contestations, and other social movements—and by the productive frictions they create. This in-depth reframing of the activities connected to seeds contributes to building a counternarrative about farmers and seeds that reopens spaces for contestation. In this counternarrative, “peasant seeds” play a central and subversive role in the sense that they question the ontological assumptions of present seed laws.

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