AFSA STRONGLY CONDEMNS SLEIGHT OF HAND MOVES BY ARIPO TO JOIN UPOV 1991, BYPASS NATIONAL LAWS AND OUTLAW FARMERS RIGHTS
PRESS RELEASE FROM ALLIANCE FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IN AFRICA
Addis Ababa, Accra 3 April 2014
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)1 strongly condemns the move by the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) to join UPOV 1991, which will effectively outlaw the centuries-old African farmers? practice of freely using, exchanging and selling seeds/propagating material. These practices underpin 90% of the agricultural system within the ARIPO region.2
AFSA has learnt that the Secretary General of ARIPO, on 6 March 2014, requested the UPOV Council to consider the Draft ARIPO Protocol for the Protection of Plant Varieties (?Draft Protocol?) for its conformity with the UPOV 1991 Convention3. If at the UPOV meeting to be held in Geneva on 11 April 2014, the UPOV Council decides that the Draft Protocol is indeed in conformity with UPOV 1991, and that ARIPO member states that ratify the Draft Protocol can join UPOV 1991, the implications will be far reaching.
According to Duke Tagoe from Food Sovereignty Ghana, a grassroots movement aggressively and successfully opposing Ghana?s Plant Variety Protection Bill, ?this will mean that our government in Ghana, who has been struggling to pass our Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Bill because of local resistance
AFSA?S COMMENTS ON ARIPO?s RESPONSES TO CIVIL SOCIETY: DRAFT LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION
At the 2013 November meeting of the Administrative Council and Council of Ministers of ARIPO countries held in Kampala, Uganda, several documents on the proposed legal framework for Plant Variety Protection were distributed. Also circulated was a Matrix1 containing ARIPO?s responses to a detailed submission by civil society organizations (CSO) dated 6th November 20122. In this AFSA Comments, we respond to this Matrix, which is evasive, baseless and shows that ARIPO?s assertions that the views and comments of civil society have been taken into account is simply false.
ARIPO’S PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION LAW BASED ON UPOV 1991 CRIMINALISES FARMERS’ RIGHTS AND UNDERMINES SEED SYSTEMS IN AFRICA
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa is gravely concerned about a draft law developed under the auspices of the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), dealing with a harmonised regional legal framework for the protection of plant breeders’ rights, titled “Draft Regional Policy and Legal Framework for Plant Variety Protection”. The ARIPO legal framework, if approved, will make it illegal for farmers to engage in their age-old practice of freely using, sharing and selling seeds/propagating material; a practice that underpins 90% of the smallholder agriculture systems in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa strongly condemns the approval during September 2013, by the Council of Ministers of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) of the draft COMESA Seed Trade Harmonization Regulations, 2013 (hereinafter referred to as the ?Seed Regulations?).
The COMESA Seed Regulations will greatly facilitate agricultural transformation in the COMESA member states towards industrialization of farming systems based on the logic of the highly controversial, failed and hopelessly doomed Green Revolution model of agriculture. The COMESA Regulations are geared towards creating an enabling environment for massively increased private sector participation in seed trade in the COMESA region as it promotes only one type of seed breeding, namely industrial seed breeding involving the use of advanced breeding technologies.
We demand that the COMESA Seed regulations be scrapped in their entirety. We call upon donors to desist from supporting the implementation of these regulations, which undermine our national sovereignty and policy space. We call for an open, transparent process, involving small farmers especially, to discuss appropriate seed laws for Africa, where the obligation of protecting biodiversity, farmers? rights and overall ecological productivity is entrenched as a primary objective.
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa
Civil society organisations from the SADC region, and around the world have condemned the SADC draft Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (Plant Breeders? Rights) as spelling disaster for small farmers and food security in the region. These groups, representing millions of farmers in Africa and around the world have submitted their concerns to the SADC Secretariat. They are calling for the rejection of the Protocol and urgent consultations with farmers, farmer movements and civil society before it?s too late.
According to the groups, the Protocol is inflexible, restrictive and imposes a ?one-size-fits-all? plant variety protection (PVP) system on all SADC countries irrespective of the nature of agricultural systems, social and economic development. It is modeled after the 1991 International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 1991), an instrument which was developed by industrialized countries to address their own needs. UPOV 1991 grants extremely strong intellectual property right protection to plant breeders, and disallows farmers from continuing their customary practices of freely using, exchanging and selling farm-saved seeds.
According to Moses Shaha, regional chairman for the East and Southern African small-scale Farmers? Forum (ESAFF): ?The proposed legislation gives big-business breeders significant rights,
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
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa: Turning Africa into a repository for failed agricultural technologies
The ‘new’ Green Revolution push in Africa is directed squarely at increasing agricultural production as the continent’s most fundamental development priority. The most visible actor in the Green Revolution onslaught is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a partnership between the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Despite initial successes in increasing output in Asia and Latin America, the Green Revolutions in those respective continents have nevertheless been criticized for their environmental, nutritional and micro-economic impacts. In light of these disparate findings on the various impacts of the Green Revolution, the wholesale adoption of its methods on the African continent would appear miss-informed.
The government of Malawi published its biosafety draft regulations in The Malawi Gazette Supplement on the 13th September 2002 (“biosafety law”) at the height of the GM food aid controversy when several countries in Southern Africa imposed restrictions on the acceptance of genetically modified food aid from the United States. Malawi accepted the GM food aid, with few restrictions being imposed. At the time of writing, the writer obtained conflicting information as to whether the draft law had been promulgated. However, the writer was able to ascertain that the biosafety law, represents the current biosafety framework.
Malawi is not yet a Party to the United Nation’s Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (“Biosafety Protocol“), nor is it amongst the 123 developing countries participating in the UNEP-GEF Biosafety Capacity Building project. It was however, one of 7 “core target” countries in Southern Africa that participated in a USAID funded biosafety capacity building project, the Southern Africa Regional Biotechnology Program (SARB)”.
SARB is a sub-project of a larger United States Assistance for International Development (USAID) project, managed by the Michigan State University, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program (ABSP). ABSP’s private sector partners include, Asgrow, Monsanto Co. Garst See Company