Africa's Ancient Plant Diversity And Seed Independence Under Threat, Supposedly In The Name Of Progress
from the it's-a-trick dept
As Africa continues to develop rapidly, Western countries and companies are increasingly interested in bringing it into existing international legal and commercial frameworks, but always on terms that maintain their dominance. One way of doing that is through intellectual monopolies: last year we wrote about proposals for a Pan-Africa Intellectual Property Organization (PAIPO), whose benefits for Africa seem dubious. Meanwhile, here’s another plan that is being presented as a vital part of Africa’s modernization process, and yet oddly enough seems to benefit giant Western companies most, as AllAfrica reports:
the proposal is to create a harmonised system of control around the presently fragmented African seed trade regime and create a system based on what is projected as modern best practice.
This includes uniform adherence to the strict 1991 Act of the International Union for the Protection of Plant Varieties (UPOV), across the board, for Africa. Because of the stringency of UPOV, the real impact of this will be the loss of control of the seed supply by indigenous small farmers. The consequences for food production and social cohesion across the continent will be dire.
The fear is that changes to how seeds are regulated will have major knock-on effects on African societies:
Once locally adapted seed varieties are lost, dependence on outside seed suppliers will rapidly become unaffordable. The implications will reverberate far beyond food production.
Indebted farmers are at direct risk of losing land tenure. On the one hand this causes accelerating urbanisation and social dislocation. On the other, good agricultural land is appropriated by large conglomerates. There is already a massive thrust by nations and corporations to gain land tenure in fertile tropical African agricultural zones.
It’s well worth reading the rest of the article, which explores the continuing consolidation in the African seed industry, and how global giants like Monsanto hope to avoid some of the resistance they have experienced elsewhere in the developing world — for example, in Brazil, discussed in Techdirt last year. As the AllAfrica article concludes:
If there was ever a time for the vocal proponents for African unity and values to step forward, it is now. Should they fail, African leadership will be harshly judged for enabling the next phase of neo-colonialism to unfold unopposed.
Unfortunately, given that PAIPO seems to be going ahead, despite major concerns about its lack of balance and transparency, the chances of the requisite African unity being achieved in order to stave off this latest attempt by the West to disadvantage the continent by locking it into inappropriate international structures look poor at the moment.