The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) welcomes you to our website. We are a research and advocacy organisation working towards food sovereignty and agro-ecology in Africa, with a focus on biosafety, seed systems and agricultural biodiversity. The organisation is committed to dismantling inequalities and resisting corporate-industrial expansion in Africa's food and agriculture systems.
Availability of and access to diverse, quality seed is a key element in successful crop production. Commercial seed systems focus only on seeds where profits can be made. Over time this has resulted in neglect and disappearance of diverse indigenous and farmer varieties, and a shrinking of agricultural biodiversity. Local seed banks owned and run by farmers are an effective way to expand seed collections, and to maintain and distribute diverse seed varieties that are not offered in the commercial system. Seed banks may take the form of household networks, or group schemes. The public sector – including the National Gene Bank, the Agricultural Research Council and extension services – have an important role to play in bringing fresh genetic materials to farmers, and in reintroducing lost varieties and crops held at national level.
Huge technical advances in molecular biology and big data biology are leading us towards a ‘forth industrial revolution’ with the ongoing development of novel genetic engineering techniques being reviewed by the UN Conventions for Biological Diversity, under the term ‘synthetic biology’.
Such techniques are widening the scope and extent to which organisms can be modified, raising renewed biopiracy concerns, and extending a long history of resource extraction from the African continent. They further threaten farmer livelihoods, biodiversity of the region and introduce novel biosafety concerns to both human health and the environment.
The current regulatory environment needs to be urgently updated and reviewed to stay abreast of these advances, with particular attention to the environmental release of synthetic biology organisms.
This week the water-stressed city of Cape Town hosts the bi-annual Adaptation Futures conference, where scientists, business leaders, and practitioners from the world of development and agriculture will come together to engage in ‘dialogues for solutions’ to the multifarious problems wrought by our rapidly changing climate.