The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) applauds today’s decision of the Competition Tribunal (Tribunal) to prohibit the seed merger between multinational seed company Pioneer Hi Bred, and South Africa’s largest seed company, Pannar Seed.

During December 2010, the Competition Commission prohibited the merger and the merging parties referred the Commission’s decision to the Tribunal for reconsideration. After a three- week- long hearing, the Tribunal has decided to similarly prohibit the merger. Reasons for the decision is still forthcoming and no further information is at this stage available.

The ACB was granted leave by the Tribunal on the 19th August 2011, to intervene in the merger proceedings on public interest grounds, particularly with regard to the effect the merger would have on small scale farmers. This was itself precedent setting in that it was the first time the Tribunal had allowed NGOs to intervene in merger proceedings. The ACB has in fact been involved in the merger proceedings since October 2010.

The ACB participated in the proceedings and led the expert evidence of an agricultural economist working directly with small- holder farmers, who outlined the devastating impacts the merger would have on small-holder farmers and food security.

According to Mariam Mayet, director of the ACB, “The prohibition is a victory for small holder farmers in South Africa and all those who advocate for a more equitable food system. The Tribunal’s decision will create much needed breathing space for the development of an appropriate seed system for South Africa that responds to the needs of small holder and resource-poor farmers rather than those of profit-seeking multinational corporations.”

The ACB notes that the South African government has prioritised the development of black small- holder farmers. Government must now do the right thing by building on the Tribunal’s decision and work in partnerships with farmers to develop small- holder capacity to produce and distribute seeds that are appropriate to farmer conditions and needs.

“Government must stop pushing for the further propagation of the industrial agricultural model, including for small holder emerging and resource poor farmers. Far too little resources have been devoted to utilizing local knowledge and local varieties as genuine solutions to food insecurity.” said Mayet.

The ACB would like to thank Legal Aid South Africa for its support, in particular, Fatima Laher and Achmed Mayet. In addition, the ACB extends its gratitude for the able expert assistance it received from Steven Greenberg and Advocate Steven Budlender.