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Statement by Avaaz on Nonprofit Seed Exchange

Last month, we were approached by the Center for Food Safety (one of the world's leading sustainable agriculture organizations) regarding a project to create a nonprofit seed exchange by which farmers could share seed varieties, information and research, building a non-profit alternative to the corporate seed market that could support and protect seed diversity and farmers' seed sovereignty. We thought it was a wonderfully promising idea, and still do. The description of the potential project listed the participation of Navdanya, led by Ms. Vandana Shiva, and a number of other supportive organizations.

Avaaz then ran a fundraiser allowing our members to donate to help the Center for Food Safety and its partners establish this seed exchange. After the fundraiser launched, Ms. Shiva denied she supported this project. The Center for Food Safety responded with an apology, taking "full responsibility" for a "miscommunication" between their international staff and Ms. Shiva. CFS stated "we want to be clear that Avaaz has acted in good faith throughout". We immediately issued a correction on our website.

Some have criticized the idea of a non-profit seed exchange. We can see several clear misunderstandings in these criticisms, most notably that the exchange is not in any way a corporate or for-profit store, but just facilitates open sharing among farmers. Our shorthand description of it as "a non-profit ebay of seeds" may have contributed to this misperception. But we feel the Center for Food Safety, as the organization proposing and executing this initiative, is best placed to respond to these concerns and explain their plan -- here's a link to their response. At present, our team feels that this remains a viable and exciting idea, but we welcome a deliberative discussion of its merits, perhaps to help improve the concept. If the concerns prove fatal to the idea, we'll contact our members who have donated, tell them we feel unable to go ahead with the grant to the Center for Food Safety, and refund their donations.

Our goals in this effort have been to help build sustainable agriculture, help farmers challenge Monsanto, and serve our community of 37 million people with opportunities to make a difference in the world. We'll continue to seek and follow the best path to achieve these goals.