Africa's Ancient Plant Diversity And Seed Independence Still Under Threat From Proposed New Laws

from the with-a-little-help-from-their-friends dept

Back in May 2013, we wrote about worrying attempts to create a harmonized system for controlling the sale of seeds in Africa that would increase the power of large suppliers such as Monsanto, at the expense of small farmers. A long and interesting article in Intellectual Property Watch indicates that those efforts are intensifying:
The African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), with the help of the United States and an international plant variety organisation, is working to grow regional support for a controversial draft law. The draft protocol would boost protection for new plant varieties, despite concerns of local civil society that it would not be in the best interest of ARIPO members' food security due to its potential impact on small farmers. ARIPO held a regional workshop on the issue in recent weeks in part to build support for a treaty negotiation to lock in these protections.
There appears to have been an attempt to censor criticism at that workshop:
The event restricted the attendance of civil society, according to the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). At the event, the group confirmed its fears about the impact of the adoption of the protocol on small farmers and food security. ARIPO, meanwhile, said it had not heard particular worries from farmers over time.
On its website, the AFSA explains its fears:
These national laws will enable the entry of foreign breeders and threaten the rights of small-scale farmers.
It also outlines plans to counter this move:
AFSA's goal over the next three years in this area will be: to build the capacity of AFSA members to influence regional and national seed legislation and policies towards protection of farmers’ rights in seed sovereignty. This will happen through and with the seed network that already exists. AFSA will help grow this into a continent-wide platform over the next three years.
That's a laudable goal, but the worry has to be that many new plant variety protection laws will have been passed by then -- doubtless with a little more help from the US on behalf of its Big Ag companies.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: africa, biodiversity, diversity, intellectual property, plant diversity, plants, seeds

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