In Africa

In Africa

Africa’s Green Revolution Drought Tolerant Maize Scam

Prediction of exacerbated drought in Africa due to climate change is apparently the driving force behind the establishment of the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) initiative, another prong of the so-called ?New Green Revolution for Africa?. WEMA seeks to develop drought tolerant maize varieties through a program which is being presented as a panacea for solving issues of hunger on the continent using marker assisted breeding and genetic engineering. That this is being done under the guise of philanthropy sidesteps questions about the real causes of hunger, disregards issues of imbalanced global distribution of food and underplays the financial benefits to be derived by the various proponents of the scheme. The possible risks to small-scale farmers, whom WEMA targets, include loss of biodiversity through gene flow, a dependence on expensive inputs into farming, possible exposure to intellectual and property rights claims and impacts on their food security. The most effective ways of supporting small-scale farmers is through agro-ecological approaches to farming. These focus on small-scale sustainable agriculture; locally adapted seed and ecological farming that better addresses the complexities of climate change, hunger, poverty and productive demands on agriculture in the developing world.

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On- going Concerns about Harmonisation of Biosafety Regulations in Africa

The paper is a response to concerns raised by the African Union‘s Biosasfety Unit about assertions made in an earlier briefing in June 2009 regarding the African Union‘s biosafety harmonisation processes.

In this briefing the Ms Swanby on behalf of the ACB salutes the initiatives taken by the AU in the biosafety discourse on the continent to date, including the early harmonisation attempts by its predecessor, the Organisation of African Union (OAU) to put in place a Model Law on Safety in Biotechnology. At that time, the OAU’s harmonisation approach was to bring about a consistent African approach to biosafety regulation based strongly on the precautionary principle.

However, this briefing continues to warn of the dangers lurking in the AU’s Biosafety Stategy with regard to proposed biosafety harmonisation processes that involve several players that cause us great concern. These players include: Regional Economic Communities (RECs), who have a decidedly pro trade and pro GM agenda and whose biosafety initiatives have to date been funded by USAID. The briefing points out that the harmonisation approach favoured by USAID is one that creates a one stop GMO approval system, and thereby side stepping a country-by-country, case-by-case risk assessment and

Response from the AU Commission Biosafety Unit to Briefing no. 9

The Revised African Model Law on Biosafety and the African Biosafety Strategy“. 15 July 2009. In July 2009 The African Union Biosafety Unit communicated their concerns about the ACB‘s briefing no.9, their letter can be viewed here.

The original briefing can be viewed at here.

The ACB‘s response is titled On-going concerns about harmonisation of biosafety regulations in Africa, November 2009.

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Patents, Climate Change and African Agriculture: Dire Predictions

Uncertainty and apprehension often afford opportunity to the cunning. This is certainly the case with climate change. The multinational seed and agrochemical industry see climate change as a means by which to further penetrate African agricultural markets by rhetorically positioning itself, even if implausibly, as having the solution to widespread climate concerns. Their so-called ?final solution? to deal with the impact of climate change on African agriculture depends on mass adoption of GM seeds and chemically intensive agricultural practices. This model poses serious biosafety risks and demands the surrender of Africa‘s food sovereignty to foreign corporations and the widespread acceptance of patents on life in Africa.

Despite its obvious pitfalls, this model is being aggressively promoted by multinationals, private philanthropy and some African national agricultural research programmes, often funded by the first two. The money and public relations forces backing the seed giants threaten to drown out other voices and other possibilities for African agriculture.

In this briefing, we expose the forces behind ?climate ready? crops, including the central role played by gene giant Monsanto and provide data on patents on climate genes in respect to key African staple and other food crops.

September 2009

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Comments on Nigeria’s Draft Biosafety Bill

An Act to Provide for the Management of Biosafety and other related matters, 2007
By Mariam Mayet
July 2009

Environmental Rights Action (ERA) (Friends of the Earth, Nigeria) has approached the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) to provide them with our comments on the latest draft of their country’s biosafety bill. The ACB has in the past, provided formal and informal advice on various drafts of Nigeria’s Biosafety Bill. ERA has been actively engaged in the anti-GM struggle in Nigeria and several parts of Africa and has done a great deal of advocacy and lobby work on biosafety issues. These comments are a small contribution to the exemplary work of ERA.

Key Findings

Nigeria’s Biosafety Bill is unique and embodies a great deal of originality and authenticity, sorely missing in other African Biosafety laws. It does appear to have travelled a truly Nigerian journey and does not exhibit the traits of US interference found in other Biosafety Bills we have worked on earlier this year.

The Bill is extremely fond of creating institutions and ?over-regulation by institutions?- so that a great many responsibilities, biosafety over-sight and monitoring functions are carried out by a range of players. The

Revised African Model Law Biosafety Strategy Briefing June 2009

Haidee Swanby of the African Centre for Biosafety attended a meeting hosted by the African Union during May 2009 in Arusha, Tanzania on various biosafety initiatives of importance to the continent.

In this briefing paper Haidee discusses the meeting and the issues and challenges lying ahead for the continent.

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Revised African Model Law Biosafety Strategy Briefing June 2009

Haidee Swanby of the African Centre for Biosafety attended a meeting hosted by the African Union during May 2009 in Arusha, Tanzania on various biosafety initiatives of importance to the continent.

In this briefing paper Haidee discusses the meeting and the issues and challenges lying ahead for the continent.

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COMMENTS ON THE NATIONAL BIOTECHNOLOGY SAFETY BILL OF UGANDA

JUNE 2009

By Mariam Mayet

We have in the past, commented on several drafts of Uganda‘s biosafety law and will not repeat the issues canvassed therein regarding the role and influence of the United States. We have been requested by civil society groups to comment on the National Biotechnology Safety Bill, 2008, approved by Uganda‘s Cabinet during April 2008.

Uganda has steadily been drawn into the GM debate over the past years. In June 2008, two short months after the cabinet approved the 2008 Bill, news broke that the first ever field trials involving GMOs in Uganda had failed dismally. The GMOs in question were GM bananas developed by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in collaboration with the Katholic University of Leuven (KUL/Belguim) from genes isolated from rice, to increase resistance to black Sigatoka disease. The trials were supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Indeed, USAID has been extremely active in Uganda over the years, aggressively promoting the adoption of GM technology in that country. It has trained several Ugandan scientists, supplied state- of- the- art equipment and installed a level- two Biosafety Greenhouse at Kawanda.[i] USAID is also funding

MAS: Key Issues for Africa. Author: William Stafford

‘Marker Assisted Selection’ uses molecular markers as tools in a plant or animal breeding programme to select for important agricultural traits, such as nutritional quality, drought tolerance, disease and pest resistance.

It has been suggested that MAS has the potential to increase food production and help initiate a new Green Revolution in Africa. A much celebrated MAS and Green Revolution programme is the ‘New Rice for Africa‘, (NERICA) that was developed by the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA). Globally, most of the MAS programmes are focused on cereals; particularly maize, rice, wheat and barley.

Monsanto who has 23% of the global seed market and 9% of the global agrochemical pesticide market, is rapidly adopting and developing MAS for their breeding programmes. MAS produced crop plants are generally not subject to biosafety regulation, which means Agricultural-biotechnology companies can avoid biosafety costs and more rapidly, bring their products to the market. Agricultural-biotechnology companies stand to gain the greatest economic benefits because MAS methods and products can be protected by patents, enabling greater market domination and control over agricultural systems by these companies.

There are several biosafety risks associated with MAS that are of concern. Products developed by MAS

Kenyan Biosafety Bill – May 2009

Genetically Modified crop plants continue to be offered to Africa as a solution to alleviate poverty and stave off hunger. It is a trite observation that hunger has little to do with how efficiently food is produced or how much food is available for consumption. Indeed, hunger is rooted in socio-economic realities which limit the ability of people to access food on the market or land; the means to acquire food and other resources to produce food; access to a clean and healthy environment’ health care and education and so forth. Nevertheless, several countries in Africa, especially Kenya, are hell bent on adopting GMOs into their agricultural systems. During February 2009, Kenya‘s President Mwai Kibaki signed the country’s heavily contested Biosafety Bill.[i] A year earlier, the NGO ‘Africa Nature Stream’ approached the Kenyan courts to intervene and stop the promulgation of a previous version of the Bill (Biosafety Bill 2007), on the grounds that GMOs cause unacceptable risks to human health and the environment.[ii] However, this legal intervention proved to be futile as did other forms of resistance on the part of Kenyan activists. Indeed, no amount of opposition by activists in Kenya could have changed the