Tag Archive: SMTA

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

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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