Tag Archive: AFSA

ARIPO sells out African Farmers, seals Secret Deal on Plant Variety Protection

Statement issued by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)

On 06 July 2015, in Arusha, Tanzania, a Diplomatic Conference held under the auspices of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) adopted a harmonised regional legal framework for the protection of plant breeders’ rights—the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (the ‘Arusha PVP Protocol’).
The Arusha PVP Protocol is a slightly revised version of a previous Draft ARIPO Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (the ‘ARIPO PVP Protocol’). The previous Draft has come under consistent and severe attack by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) because it is based on a Convention known as UPOV 1991—a restrictive and inflexible international legal precept, totally unsuitable for Africa. Crucially, the ARIPO PVP Protocol proposed extremely strong intellectual property rights to breeders while restricting the age-old practices of African farmers freely to save, use, share and sell seeds and/or propagating material. These practices are the backbone of agricultural systems in Sub-Saharan Africa; they have ensured the production and maintenance of a diverse pool of genetic resources by farmers themselves, and have safe-guarded food and nutrition for tens of millions of Africans

AFSA CALLS ON AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS AT ARUSHA MEETING TO SHUN PROTOCOL THAT UNDERMINES SOVEREIGNTY & FARMERS’ RIGHTS TO SEED

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2 July 2015

Nineteen African nations, members of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), began deliberating on the highly contentious draft ARIPO Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Protocol on Monday, 29th June in Arusha Tanzania. Many of these nations are least developed countries, the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world.

If adopted, the Protocol will establish a centralised plant variety protection (PVP) regime modeled on the heavily criticised 1991 Act of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 1991). Such a PVP regime will vest enormous decision-making powers in the ARIPO PVP Office (which has no experience in PVP matters), and totally undermine the sovereignty of member states to regulate plant breeder’s rights. Crucially, the Protocol will nullify the rights of farmers to freely save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and other propagating material. This practice is the backbone of agricultural systems in Africa, providing food and nutrition for hundreds of millions of Africans on the continent.

AFSA has been extremely vocal in challenging the legitimacy and credibility of the process leading to the development of the Draft Protocol as well as the Protocol itself. A particular concern is that the

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

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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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

AFSA?S COMMENTS ON ARIPO?s RESPONSES TO CIVIL SOCIETY: DRAFT LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION

At the 2013 November meeting of the Administrative Council and Council of Ministers of ARIPO countries held in Kampala, Uganda, several documents on the proposed legal framework for Plant Variety Protection were distributed. Also circulated was a Matrix1 containing ARIPO?s responses to a detailed submission by civil society organizations (CSO) dated 6th November 20122. In this AFSA Comments, we respond to this Matrix, which is evasive, baseless and shows that ARIPO?s assertions that the views and comments of civil society have been taken into account is simply false.

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ARIPO’S PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION LAW BASED ON UPOV 1991 CRIMINALISES FARMERS’ RIGHTS AND UNDERMINES SEED SYSTEMS IN AFRICA

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa[1] is gravely concerned about a draft law developed under the auspices of the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), dealing with a harmonised regional legal framework for the protection of plant breeders’ rights, titled “Draft Regional Policy and Legal Framework for Plant Variety Protection”. The ARIPO legal framework, if approved, will make it illegal for farmers to engage in their age-old practice of freely using, sharing and selling seeds/propagating material; a practice that underpins 90% of the smallholder agriculture systems in sub-Saharan Africa.

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AFSA Statement Condemning COMESA Approval of Seed Regulations

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa[1] strongly condemns the approval during September 2013, by the Council of Ministers of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) of the draft COMESA Seed Trade Harmonization Regulations, 2013 (hereinafter referred to as the ?Seed Regulations?).

The COMESA Seed Regulations will greatly facilitate agricultural transformation in the COMESA member states towards industrialization of farming systems based on the logic of the highly controversial, failed and hopelessly doomed Green Revolution model of agriculture. The COMESA Regulations are geared towards creating an enabling environment for massively increased private sector participation in seed trade in the COMESA region as it promotes only one type of seed breeding, namely industrial seed breeding involving the use of advanced breeding technologies.

We demand that the COMESA Seed regulations be scrapped in their entirety. We call upon donors to desist from supporting the implementation of these regulations, which undermine our national sovereignty and policy space. We call for an open, transparent process, involving small farmers especially, to discuss appropriate seed laws for Africa, where the obligation of protecting biodiversity, farmers? rights and overall ecological productivity is entrenched as a primary objective.

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa