The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) learned today that US multi-national seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred has been granted permission by the Competition Appeal Court, to acquire the nation’s last major independent seed company, Pannar seed. The ACB was an intervening party, opposing the merger in the public interest.
In granting the merger, the court has not only ensured the further consolidation of private ownership over our seed systems, but crucially, it has sanctioned the concentration of germplasm in the hands of a small number of multinational corporations. This will exacerbate the existing situation whereby farmers are becoming irreversibly disconnected from breeding processes and converted into mere consumers of what they originally collectively produced.
A key issue in the merger is Pioneer’s fervent desire to take control of locally adapted germplasm that Pannar holds – germplasm that existed and was used in Africa long before Pioneer or Pannar existed.
One of the conditions of the merger is a R20 million fund to “increase the productivity, knowledge and welfare of small-scale and developing farmers”. But this is no more than public relations. “As long as smallholders themselves are only passive recipients of largesse from the corporations, and the companies determine