The ACB is committed to dismantling inequalities in the food and agriculture systems in Africa and the promotion of agro-ecology and food sovereignty.

WEMA Project shrouded in secrecy: open letter to African governments to be accountable to farmers, civil society

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The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project promises to develop drought tolerance in maize for the benefit of small holder farmers, but is really a project designed to facilitate the spread of hybrid and genetically modified (GM) maize varieties on the continent.
WEMA involves five African countries: Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. It works through the National Agricultural Research (NAR) agencies of these countries, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT)
and Monsanto. The project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

Secrecy
There is a great deal of secrecy that surrounds the WEMA project. The AATF (the so-called ‘not for profit’ organisation that coordinates WEMA) exercises extremely tight control over any information related to WEMA and has prevented researchers from speaking to WEMA partners, including the NARs. Information relating to performance and quality control is notably absent from the WEMA website. The NARs are public research institutions and are accountable to the public, especially in regard to the use of public goods under their control, such as germplasm, institutional resources and capacities. They are under constitutional and

Seed capture in South Africa: A threat to seed freedom but the seed movement is fighting back

Simangele Siko, a member of the central committee at Izindaba Zokudla, in her thanks to ACB after the workshop said, “The farmers have got power, immense power, but you have just unearthed the power!”
By Claire Rousell
25 August 2017

Who can claim to own a seed? In these kernels lie the genetic wisdom of millions of years, co-created within specific environments by millions of organisms, including humans. Seeds also contain the future: the potential for life, nourishment and pleasure for generations to come.

Taking on different forms around the world, the Seed Movement has been gathering momentum for the last 20 years or more, through the work of devoted seed-keepers tending to their precious collections and dedicated activist networks collectively working to defend seed sovereignty and resist corporate capture of seeds. The energy around the Seed Movement has been amped up in the last few years in response to a number of governments in Africa – including Ghana and Tanzania – that are pushing to pass laws that criminalise the saving and exchange of seed, as well as aiming to have increased control over the harvests of seed that are protected by plant breeders’ rights.
For the last two

OPEN LETTER TO AFRICAN BIOSAFETY REGULATORS

OPEN LETTER TO AFRICAN BIOSAFETY REGULATORS

Do not allow Africans to be used as guinea pigs for untested high-risk new GM technology

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa calls for an immediate ban on the importation into South Africa of Monsanto’s high-risk second-generation gene-silencing genetically modified (GM) maize destined for human consumption. AFSA rejects and condemns US corporation Monsanto’s plan to exploit millions of Africans as unwitting human guinea pigs for their latest genetic engineering experiment. AFSA also condemns the IITA field trial application in Nigeria using this same risky technology to produce GM cassava for the agro-fuels industry.

These GM applications target staple foods of maize and cassava, eaten by many millions of Africans every day. Scientists have reported that the untested gene-silencing effect is able to cross over into mammals and humans, and affect their genetic makeup with unknown potential negative consequences, and have called for long-term animal testing and stronger regulation before this goes ahead.

In an open letter to African Biosafety Regulators AFSA demands that, while these risks remain, the introduction of this untested RNAi technology be unequivocally banned by all member states of the African Union. Regulators in South Africa and Nigeria are urged

RNA interference GMOs to enter South Africa and Nigeria

In this Alert, the ACB warns that the South African government received an application for the commodity clearance (import for food, feed and processing) of a ‘multi-stacked variety’ of genetically modified (GM) maize – MON87427 × MON89034 × MIR162 × MON87411, which represents the entry of the second generation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in South Africa. Unlike standard first-generation GMOs, this GM maize variety utilises what is termed the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway. Such GMOs are the latest in the GM push on the wider African continent. Indeed, Nigeria has recently received an application for the field trials of a GM cassava variety that uses RNAi to reduce the amount of starch in cassava, with the purported aim of preventing starch breakdown during storage.

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The Water Efficient Maize for Africa Project: Profiteering not Philanthropy

This scoping study aims to appraise, to the best of our knowledge, the current status of the roll-out of a public- private partnership which forms the the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project in five African countries: Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The partnership is between the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Monsanto and the National Agricultural Research Agencies (NARs).

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Local seed varieties are essential for sustainable food systems … but face challenges

Stephen Greenberg
4 August 2017

Smallholder farmers in Mozambique want access to a diversity of quality seed, but not exclusively from the formal sector. Farmers highly value their own varieties and want to work on enhancing these, too. These strong messages came out of a dialogue held between smallholder farmers, government officials and research institutions in Chimoio, Manica Province in central Mozambique in March 2017.

The National Farmers’ Union of Mozambique (UNAC), its provincial affiliate in Manica (UCAMA) and the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) co-hosted the dialogue to share research findings on mapping farmer seed varieties in Sussundenga, Manica and Gondola districts in Manica. Smallholder farmers – women and men – from UNAC-affiliated district farmer associations in Manica, Sofala, Zambezia and Nampula in Mozambique and from the Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmer Forum (Zimsoff) participated. They raised a number of very interesting issues and challenges in relation to maintenance and enhancement of farmer seed varieties, in dialogue with provincial and district government representatives from Manica, and with representatives from research institutions and regulators.

The issues the farmers raised, alongside researchers, breeders and officials, provide a challenge for those of us working in the seed movement. Farmers highly value their local

No Safe Limits for Toxic Pesticides in Our Foods

Source: http://monarchtestinglab.com/chemical-testing.php

By Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji
July 2017
On 7 April 7 2017 the South African government issued draft amendments to its regulations governing the legal limits for pesticide residues on food crops. The proposed amendments expose the gaps in regulations to date, despite the cultivation of herbicide-tolerant GM crops for almost two decades.
As the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) team researched the proposed changes to Maximum Residues Levels (MRLs) (see Box below) for various vegetables and staple crops, it became clear that there is no established system or single database where information on MRLs can be found. Even more concerning, it appears that these draft amendments are the first to set levels for glyphosate herbicides on soybeans, while no levels appear to have been set for glufosinate on maize, even though glyphosate-tolerant soybeans and glufosinate-tolerant maize have been cultivated here for many years.
The incomplete information exposes the South African government’s inadequate oversight of our food system. Indeed, the oversight role is fragmented across 14 separate acts of parliament, with policy execution hampered by a lack of clear demarcation regarding mandates, responsibilities and accountability. In contrast, the regulations on MRLs for international export are tightly regulated by the

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project: Real or false solution to climate change?

By Lim Li Ching, Senior Researcher, Third World Network

Climate change is an urgent challenge facing farmers in Africa. As our world warms, many farmers are already experiencing devastating consequences, including storms, drought, floods, heat waves and extreme weather events. The implications for food security are severe, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projecting that wheat, rice and maize production will be negatively impacted by local temperature increases of 2°C or more above levels in the late twentieth century. Coupled with a predicted reduction in renewable surface water and groundwater resources in most dry subtropical regions, the prospects for agriculture are grim and extremely worrying.

Into this context enters the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project. The objective of the WEMA project is to produce drought-tolerant and insect-protected maize varieties, both conventional and genetically modified (GM). According to its proponents, these varieties “will provide valuable economic, agronomic and environmental1 benefits to millions of farmers by helping them produce more reliable harvests under moderate drought conditions and better grain quality due to reduced insect damage. This will help farmers harvest enough to feed their families, a surplus which they can sell to increase their incomes, and help strengthen

Call to public meeting on corporate seed Bills ahead of public hearing

The Plant Breeders’ Rights and Plant Improvement Bills restrict the saving, trading, exchanging, and sale of seed. This can have massive ramifications on seed and food sovereignty, agricultural biodiversity, access to diverse seed, and increasing the disparities and inequalities in South African agriculture, food and nutrition.

We urgently need to protect and preserve our food and seed sovereignty. It is in our best interests that we make our voices heard and retain what really is ours, which is the right to our food, the quality and control of our seed.

In preparation for the final public hearing on these bills, that is to take place in Bronkhorstpruit on the 12th August, ACB and Izindaba Zokudla will be holding a workshop to discuss the seed bills.

This is an opportunity to get your voices heard, and to participate meaningfully in the decision-making processes of our country! Spread the word!

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GM Cotton push in Swaziland: Next target for failed Bt cotton

This paper examines the application of the Bt cotton field trials currently underway in Swaziland. This is situated within the broader wave of GM application and trials across the continent, along with the weakening of national biosafety regulations, as part of the GM push across Africa. This paper is based on research on the Swaziland cotton sector conducted by the ACB and Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji, pursuant to civil society organisation biosafety capacity building workshop held in March 2017.

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