Tag Archive: ITPGRFA

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

How US sorghum seed distributions undermine the FAO Plant Treaty’s Multilateral System

New data from ICRISAT and the US Department of Agriculture and a comparison of genebank records indicates that half of more of ICRISAT’s sorghum genebank collection is also being distributed outside of the Multilateral System. This yawning gap creates an economic incentive for the Multilateral System and its benefit sharing requirements to be avoided.

USDA’s sorghum germplasm customers, who are primarily corporate and commercially oriented academic breeders, are taking advantage of this perverse incentive. In the past six years, they have ordered four times more ICRISAT genebank seeds from USDA than from ICRISAT itself. Globally, it is likely that more distributions of Multilateral System sorghum take place without an SMTA than occur with one.

Recipients of large USDA distributions of sorghum are not obligated to share benefits and do not comply with the restrictions of the SMTA on patenting parts of the material. Under present circumstances, the promise of the Multilateral System cannot be fulfilled for sorghum, a crop of global food security importance, particularly in Africa. Further, even if the US ratifies the ITPGRFA, a vexing problem has been created by USDA’s recent massive distributions of Multilateral System sorghum germplasm to institutions potentially not bound by the Treaty’s

THE RACE TO OWN AFRICA’S SORGHUM GENES!

17 June 2010

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) today published a third research paper in its ‘Sorghum Series’1titled, ‘The Sorghum Gene Grab.’

The hunt for agrofuel and drought tolerant crops has propelled a huge commercial interest in sorghum, including a spate of patent claims over different components of the sorghum genome.

Patent claims have been lodged by US companies, Ceres and Edenspace as well as the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University (Texas A&M) and Rutgers University. Key sought after traits include sorghum flowering, plant growth (biomass), sugar content and cold and salt tolerance. Patent claims are designed to control a set of promoter genes and other genetic components of sorghum to create sorghum cultivars. According to author, Edward Hammond “This move is the contemporary biotech equivalent of an 18th century European explorer planting his flag on a little understood foreign land and claiming it for himself or his sovereign, as if by divine right subordinating all other interests in the territory.”

The paper also points to the rapid consolidation of the sorghum industry in the US, as a result of the demand from agrofuel refineries and the importance of drought tolerant crops. Africa

African Sorghum for agrofuels: the race is on

Author: Edward Hammond
About the briefing: The interlocking problems of climate change, emissions from fossil fuels, and limited oil reserves have stimulated interest worldwide in the use of plant crops to produce fuel. Agrofuels are not a new idea. Brazil, for instance, has used them on a large scale for many years. The potential scale of production and use of agrofuels in the coming decades, however, is unprecedented.

Presently, most of the world’s agrofuels are produced from common crops including maize and sugarcane (for ethanol) and soya and rapeseed (for biodiesel). But dozens of companies and public sector plant breeding institutions, funded by private and government investment, are furiously researching other crops that could be optimized for agrofuels. This is in part due to the criticism that has been levelled at production of agrofuels from edible grains, particularly maize, and its effect on food prices.

Sorghum, native to Africa and grown world-wide, is fast emerging as a leader among the “energy crops” and may play a major role in the international agrofuels industry. Seed companies are showing new interest in African farmers’ varieties of sorghum, which may have characteristics useful for industrial agrofuel production. Companies and government plant

Africa’s Granary Plundered Privatisation of Tanzanian Sorghum Protected by the Seed Treaty

By Edward Hammond December 2009.

A gene recently isolated from a Tanzanian farmers’ variety of sorghum may yield tremendous pro?ts for multinational companies and government researchers in the United States and Brazil. Called SbMATE, it is not only useful in sorghum; but also may be used in other crops, including genetically engineered (GE) maize, wheat, and rice as well as GE tree plantations.
Government researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and the Texas A&M University (US) have patented the gene in the US. They have also ?led an international patent application in which they state that they will seek patents on the Tanzanian gene across the world, including in Africa.
The commercial potential of the gene is strong. Although it was only recently identi?ed, the giant multinational Dow Chemical is already negotiating with the US government to license it. Japan’s second largest paper products company has also expressed interest in buying access to it.

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