Seed Sovereignty

Seed Sovereignty

White men meet in London to plot ways of profiting off Africa’s seed systems

White men meet in London to plot ways of profiting off Africa’s seed systems

A meeting is to be held in London on 23 March by predominantly white men with a sprinkling of Africans, some of whom represent private seed companies, to discuss how to make a killing off Africa?s seed systems.

Farmers and civil society organisations have not been invited to the meeting, which will be attended only by private seed companies, donors, representatives from Africa?s regional economic communities, research centres and multinational development organisations.

The meeting will discuss a study produced by Monitor-Deloitte, commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and USAID. BMGF is a big sponsor of the commercialisation of agriculture in Africa, including through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Working with USAID, this commercial agenda extends US foreign policy into Africa and threatens the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers who rely on recycling seed for their livelihoods.

The goal of the Deloitte study is to develop models for commercialisation of seed production in Africa, especially on early generation seed (EGS), and to identify ways in which the African public sector could facilitate private involvement in African seed systems. The

RAILROADING AFRICAN GOVTS INTO ADOPTING ARIPO PVP PROTOCOL BASED ON UPOV 1991: AFSA APPEALS TO ARIPO MEMBER STATES FOR POSTPONEMENT OF DIPLOMATIC CONFERENCE AND FOR URGENT CONSULTATIONS WITH SMALL-HOLDER FARMERS

AFSA attended a Regional Workshop on the ARIPO PVP Protocol, 29-31 October 2014, in Harare Zimbabwe, where numerous technical and administrative flaws continue to characterise the process. In particular, member states were forced into accepting a recommendation, disguised as if crafted by them, mandating ARIPO to urgently organize and call for the Diplomatic Conference for the adoption of the Protocol. In reality, member states, instead, unanimously endorsed the need for further consultations to be held at national levels and independent expert review of the draft ARIPO PVP Protocol and that talk of a Diplomatic Conference to adopt the Protocol is hopelessly premature.

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Acquisition of Africa?s SeedCo by Monsanto, Groupe Limagrain: Neo-colonial occupation of Africa?s seed systems

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) is deeply concerned about the recent acquisitions by multi-national seed companies of large parts of SeedCo, one of Africa?s largest home-grown seed companies. Attracting foreign investment from the world?s largest seed companies, most of who got to their current dominant positions by devouring national seed companies and their competitors through mergers and acquisitions, is an inevitable consequence of the fierce drive to commercialise agriculture in Africa.

The deals in question involve French seed giant Groupe Limagrain, the largest seed and plant breeding company in the European Union, who has invested up to US$60 million for a 28% stake in SeedCo. In another transaction, SeedCo has agreed to sell 49% of its shares in Africa?s only cottonseed company, Quton, to Mahyco of India. Mahyco is 26% owned by Monsanto and has 50:50 joint venture with the gene-giant to sub-license its genetically modified (GM) bt cotton traits throughout India. Interestingly, Mahyco also specialises in hybrid cotton varieties, unlike Quton, who also produces open-pollinated varieties (OPVs) of cottonseed.

These acquisitions follow close on the heels of Swiss biotech giant Syngenta?s take-over in 2013 of Zambian seed company MRI Seed, whose maize germplasm collection was said

Resources transferred from small-scale farmers to multinational agribusinesses in Malawi’s Green Revolution

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has today released its research report based on field work conducted in Malawi, titled “Running to stand still: Small-scale farmers and the Green Revolution in Malawi.” The research, conducted by the ACB in collaboration with the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology and Dr Blessings Chinsinga from the University of Malawi, does not validate the argument that Malawi is a Green Revolution success story. On the contrary, the research highlights the plight of small-scale farmers at the receiving end of the Green Revolution (GR) push in Malawi. Among its findings are that farmers are trapped in a cycle of debt and dependency on costly external inputs with limited long-term benefit, and that the natural resource base is being degraded and eroded despite ? or perhaps because of – GR inputs.

According to ACB’s lead researcher, Dr Stephen Greenberg, “our research found that small-scale farmers are using shockingly high levels of synthetic fertilisers at great financial costs to themselves and the public purse. Rising soil infertility is a feature of farming systems reliant on synthetic fertiliser. We found that farmers are increasingly adopting hybrid maize seed, encouraged by

Running to Stand Still: Small-Scale Farmers and the Green Revolution in Malawi

According to ACB?s lead researcher, Dr Stephen Greenberg, ?our research found that small-scale farmers are using shockingly high levels ofsynthetic fertilisers at great financial costs to themselves and the publicpurse. Rising soil infertility is a feature of farming systems reliant on synthetic fertiliser. We found that farmers are increasingly adopting hybrid maize seed, encouraged by government subsidies and the promise of massive yields. However, adoption of these hybrid seeds comes at the cost of abandoning diversity and resilience of local seed varieties, and the ever escalating requirement for synthetic fertilisers. Indeed, our findings show net transfers away from farming households to agribusinesses such as SeedCo, Pannar (recentlymerged with Pioneer Hi-Bred), Monsanto and Demeter in the commercial seed industry. For fertiliser, the major fertiliser producers and distributors are Farmers World (which also owns Demeter seed), Yara, TansGlobe, Omnia and Rab Processors.?

Executive summary

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Full Report

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Press Release

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ALLIANCE FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IN AFRICA: MEDIA BRIEFING AFSA APPEALS TO ARIPO, AU AND UNECA FOR PROTECTION OF FARMERS’ RIGHTS & RIGHT TO FOOD

Addis Ababa

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), a Pan African platform comprising civil society networks and farmer organisations working towards food sovereignty in Africa, has today lodged an urgent appeal to the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to urgently revise the draft ARIPO Plant Variety Protection Protocol, recognise farmers? rights and facilitate the right to food. AFSA is requesting that such revision be based on a broader consultation process with farmer organisations and experts from outside of the plant breeders? rights sector.

African civil society organisations, many of them members of AFSA, made submissions to ARIPO on its draft Plant Variety Protection (PVP) law and policies in November 2012. AFSA has itself submitted comments on ARIPO?s Response to Civil Society: Draft Legal Framework for Plant Variety Protection, March 2014. In both submissions, several serious concerns were raised about the law, which later was titled ?the draft ARIPO Plant Variety Protection Protocol?, being based on UPOV 1991 (the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants), a restrictive and inflexible legal regime focused solely on promoting and protecting the rights of commercial breeders that develop

Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) submission to ARIPO, AU and UNECA for urgent intervention in draft ARIPO Plant Variety Protection Protocol, in order to protect farmers? rights and the right to food.

This submission contains several grounds upon which AFSA is seeking urgent interventions by ARIPO, the AU and the UNECA to urgently revise the draft ARIPO PVP Protocol to protect farmers rights and the right to food.

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SLAVISHLY FOLLOWING UPOV 1991

In this report, the ACB provides a critique of the Mozambique PVP law and concludes that the government of Mozambique has turned a blind eye to its small-scale farmers and their seed and farming systems. The provisions dealing with the exclusive rights granted to plant breeders? and the exceptions to those rights render the centuries-old African farmers? practices of freely using, exchanging and selling seeds/propagating material illegal

ACBio Comments

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Mozambique PVP Law

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AFSA Makes Small Gains for Farmers’ Rights in Draft SADC PVP Protocol

AFSA members participated at a SADC Regional Workshop that took place 13-14 March 2014, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The aim of the workshop was to review the draft SADC PVP Protocol. After marathon, highly contentious and difficult discussions, AFSA members were able to persuade member states to amend key provisions in the draft SADC PVP Protocol dealing with “disclosure of origin” and “farmers’ rights”. While some space was opened through the participation of AFSA members at the very tail end of the workshop, the objections to the draft SADC PVP Protocol being based on UPOV 1991still remain. Indeed, the road ahead for smallholders and their seed systems continues to look extremely bleak. A radical shift is required at the political level away from a singular system that favours only one kind of plant breeding (industrial) and corporate seed systems that facilitate commercial growing and regional trade in improved and protected seed only and in which smallholders’ role is defined as that of passive consumers or growers in certification schemes (that produce improved/protected seed) to a system that embraces a multitude of actors and encourages a diversity of farming systems and seed.

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PROTOCOL FOR PROTECTION OF NEW

AFSA STRONGLY CONDEMNS SLEIGHT OF HAND MOVES BY ARIPO TO JOIN UPOV 1991, BYPASS NATIONAL LAWS AND OUTLAW FARMERS RIGHTS

PRESS RELEASE FROM ALLIANCE FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IN AFRICA

Addis Ababa, Accra 3 April 2014

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)1 strongly condemns the move by the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) to join UPOV 1991, which will effectively outlaw the centuries-old African farmers? practice of freely using, exchanging and selling seeds/propagating material. These practices underpin 90% of the agricultural system within the ARIPO region.2

AFSA has learnt that the Secretary General of ARIPO, on 6 March 2014, requested the UPOV Council to consider the Draft ARIPO Protocol for the Protection of Plant Varieties (?Draft Protocol?) for its conformity with the UPOV 1991 Convention3. If at the UPOV meeting to be held in Geneva on 11 April 2014, the UPOV Council decides that the Draft Protocol is indeed in conformity with UPOV 1991, and that ARIPO member states that ratify the Draft Protocol can join UPOV 1991, the implications will be far reaching.

According to Duke Tagoe from Food Sovereignty Ghana, a grassroots movement aggressively and successfully opposing Ghana?s Plant Variety Protection Bill, ?this will mean that our government in Ghana, who has been struggling to pass our Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Bill because of local resistance