This submission was made by civil society groups at a COMESA meeting in Lusaka during March 2013, in which serious concerns were raised about the COMESA seed trade laws as negatively impacting on small farmers in the COMESA region.
Statement made by:
Zambia Climate Change Network (ZCCN); East and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF) ? Zambia; Participatory Ecological Land-Use (PELUM) Association; Alliance for Agro-Ecology and Biological Diversity Conservation; Kasisi Agriculture Training Centre (KATC); Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT); Green Living Movement (GLM); African Centre for Biosafety (ACB)
The Regulations allow for the expedited registration of seeds to enable the creation of a seed free trade zone within the COMESA region. ?Seed trade? is not defined in the regulations as being restricted to only the commercial seed sector. In this regard, there are serious concerns that the Regulations do not provide any safeguards that small farmers will be allowed to freely use, save, sell, barter and exchange traditional varieties of seed.? Lack of these safeguards will open the door for the criminalising of the customary practises of small farmers to exchange, sell and
This document represents the submission by more than 80 civil society organisations from the SADC region, other parts of Africa and around the world to the SADC Secretariat. These groups representing millions of farmers have condemned the SADC daft Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants as spelling disaster for small farmers and food security in the region. They are calling for the rejection of the Protocol and urgent consultations with farmers, farmer movements and civil society before any further work is undertaken.
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has released its new report titled, ?Harmonisation of Africa?s seed laws: a recipe for disaster- Players, motives and dynamics. The report shows how African governments are being co-opted into harmonising seed laws relating to border control measures, phytosanitary control, variety release systems, certification standards and intellectual property rights, to the detriment of African small-holder farmers and their seed systems.
According to Mariam Mayet of the ACB, ?The effect of these efforts, which are being pushed through African regional trading blocs such as COMESA and SADC include:
- facilitating the unlawful appropriation and privatization of African germplasm;
- providing extremely strong intellectual property protection for commercial seed breeders and severely restricting the rights of farmers to freely use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds;
- facilitating the creation of regional seed markets where the only types of seed on offer to small scale farmers are commercially protected varieties; and
- threatening farmer- managed seed systems and markets.?
The report shows that harmonized intellectual property rights (plant variety protection-?PVP?) over seeds are all based on the 1991 Act of the International Union of the Protection of Plant Varieties (UPOV 1991). UPOV 1991 was developed by industrialized countries more than
The core of the paper is focused on the pressures being exerted on African governments to adopt the 1991 Act of the International Union for the Protection of Plant Varieties (UPOV), particularly through regional harmonisation of plant variety protection (PVP) policies and laws. We also discuss the adverse impacts PVP laws will have on the exercise of farmers? rights in Africa, and concomitantly, on agricultural biodiversity, food security, livelihoods, knowledge systems and culture.
“Seeds are the very basis of human society and have been for all of human history. Until very recently, farming and seed breeding were undertaken by farmers on their own land, season after season. However, we are now witnessing the separation of these two interdependent activities, with seed breeding increasingly being privatised and farmers becoming increasingly dependent on seed varieties made available to them at the discretion of seed companies. This process of separation began in Europe and North America at the turn of the nineteenth century, and continues today in developing countries and developed countries alike.”
(Dar es Salaam, Harare, Kampala, Johannesburg). The African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) has proposed a draft regional harmonized policy and legal framework on Plant Variety Protection (PVP), based on the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Convention of 1991. The draft legal framework, if adopted, will have significant adverse consequences for small-scale farmers that dominate the agricultural landscape of ARIPO member states,1 as well as for food security, agricultural biodiversity and national sovereignty in Africa.
African civil society organizations (CSO) have submitted a detailed critique to ARIPO on the 6 November 2012, expressing their grave concerns with regard to the fundamentally flawed process involved in developing the draft PVP policy and legal framework, as well as with the legal framework itself. According to Mariam Mayet of the African Centre for Biosafety ?The legal framework will not only facilitate the theft of African germplasm and privatization of seed breeding. It will ensure the unhindered creation of a commercial seed market, where the types of seeds on offer are restricted to commercially protected varieties within a context where farmers? rights to freely use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed are seriously eroded.?
During October/November 2012, a number of African groups from civil society in Africa supported a submission to ARIPO on its draft policy and legal framework for PVP. In such submission, the groups pointed out that draft legal framework was not written with the interests of sub-Saharan African states in mind, particularly ARIPO member states. This is because there is no attempt to develop a sui generis system suitable to the African context. It instead blindly copies and expands on UPOV 1991.
Comments on COMESA’s Draft Policy on Commercial Planting, Trade and Emergency Food Aid Involving Genetically Modified Organisms.
On the 8th and 9th May 2012 COMESA held a meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, to review a draft policy on the regulation and trade of GMOs for the region. While the Biotech Industry was very well represented at the meeting, civil society was completely left out of the process. This policy is being drafted behind closed doors to suit the trade interests of the major sponsor of the Policy – the United States government. Rather than ensure the most effective biosafety procedures for the Region, this policy is crafted to create an enabling environment for the free trade of GMOs with few checks and balances. The policy poses a threat to the national sovereignty of Member States, all but excludes public participation in the decision making process on GMOs and lowers the bar when it comes to risk assessments.
This document is endorsed by:
“The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has been handed a document of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)i titled ‘Draft Policy Statements and Guidelines for commercial plantings of GMOs, Trade in GMOs and Emergency Food aid with GMO content.” The Policy intends to undermine and displace more than a decade’s worth of international, regional and national biosafety policies and legislation by usurping the policy space of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (Biosafety Protocol), regional policies on food aid and the sovereign rights of COMESA member states.
The Policy is due to be tabled at a COMESA meeting 12-17 July 2010 in Zambia.
According to ACB director Mariam Mayet “The Policy adopts an aggressive approach to the wholesale proliferation of GMOs on the African continent through a free trade agenda designed to create markets for commercial farmers in the US and South Africa.”
A small group of experts closely aligned to the biotechnology, seed and agrochemical industry, including those from South Africa has drafted the Policy behind closed doors. Stakeholders, particularly African small-scale farmers have been utterly excluded from the process, despite the fact that the Policy will have a major
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) was very recently handed a copy of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa‘s (COMESA) ‘Draft policy statements and guidelines for commercial planting of GMOs, Trade in GMOs and Emergency Food aid with GMO content’. Having perused the policy we are alarmed and outraged that COMESA appears to support the undermining and displacing of more than a decade’s worth of international, regional and national biosafety policies and legislation. It is the ACB‘s opinion that a small group of experts closely aligned to the Biotechnology, seed and agrochemical industry, frustrated by the lack of GMO adoption in African markets, drafted the policy behind closed doors. Stakeholders whose interests will be adversely affected by the far reaching proposals within the policy have been completely excluded from the process.
Further, it seeks to usurp the biosafety policy space of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (the pre-eminent international treaty on the cross border movement of GMOs), regional policies on food aid and the sovereign rights of COMESA member states. We implore COMESA members to reject the policy out of hand at their next meeting, scheduled to take place from the 12th