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.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2013 @ 12:55am

    how depressing :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2013 @ 1:44am

    out of curiosity, do these 'giant western companies' happen to be mostly US companies? i hazard a guess that they are and that this 'trade agreement' which i assume it will be billed as, is no different to those that the US are trying to get implemented the world over. all for the US, nothing for anyone else!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2013 @ 1:54am

    How to use patented seeds to gain royalties, look at what is being planted, scatter some seeds of a patented variety in or near the planting, claim royalties on the resulting seeds from the crop. A corporation wouldn’t arrange for this to happen would it?.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Ninja (profile), May 2nd, 2013 @ 3:33am

    Africa is a delicate issue. They could just give these countries a giant middle finger for the decades (or even centuries) of abuses. However there are sufficient leaderships that will put down their pants and bow if enough economic "incentives" are given.

    In any case it's worth watching. I certainly believe we'll see the worst possible outcome for the African citizens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2013 @ 4:04am


    Eh, it's been done enough times by megaconglomerates - both Monsanto and Glencore have done this across the globe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Wolfy, May 2nd, 2013 @ 4:14am

    I smell monsanto.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2013 @ 5:15am

    Why do these giant bozo-corps think they have the right to bully these sovereign nations? Talk about aggressive marketing, and they wonder why they are hated so much. They could buy a clue if they were not such tight wads.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2013 @ 6:14am

    come on, western corporations, for the love of god! Let these people eat food and develope their own enterprise in peace frack!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2013 @ 6:57am

    Instead of us trying to keep track of the many many corruptions that occur due to IP laws a simpler solution is to abolish IP laws altogether. These laws do not really benefit anyone but huge monopolistic corporations and no one is entitled to any monopoly privilege. Plus IP is nothing short of unadulterated theft. ABOLISH IP!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2013 @ 7:00am


    and they dont even have to "scatter some patented variety in or near the planting". If your neighbor uses patented seed it WILL end up on your property thanks to the wind. They already do this and bankrupt farmers who won't "fall in line" with their agenda.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    phatkhat (profile), May 2nd, 2013 @ 7:18am


    Not to mention places like Uganda, where the "Christian" missionaries have softened up the leaders to adopt the policies of the Western world in return for support from the "Christians" for their backward and regressive social policies.

    Too many of the African "leaders" are in it for themselves, and that makes it extremely bad for the people. Sometimes, I'm glad I'm old. If I were young, I'd be very, very depressed by the direction the world is taking.

    And I, too, smell Monsanto - big time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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