Monday, March 10, 2014 

Activists up in arms over seeds laws

OURS: There are concerns that indigenous seeds will lose out to the marketing clout of the multinational seeds companies.

KAMPALA, UGANDA - Food security activists have asked African legislators to stop passing laws which end up protecting the interests of  multinational seed manufacturers at the expense of ordinary farmers.

Bernard Guri, the Executive Director at the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development, a Ghanaian based CSO said, “New seeds trade laws have been passed rapidly, adopted or are in the process of being adopted at regional and national levels. They have significant impact on small holder farmers as they exclude farmers’ varieties in their lists with their focus on seeds that are distinct, uniform and stable.  

He said, “When the parliamentarians are passing these Bills they don’t consult civil societies or even small scale farmers in their respective countries who are greatly affected when such Bills are passed into law.”

He was speaking in Kampala during the launch of Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) last week.

He said by enacting laws that protect the interests of foreign seed companies, can trigger future food insecurity across the continent.

AFSA is Pan-African platform comprising of networks and farmer organizations working in Africa whose basic aim is to influence policies and promote African solutions in food sovereignty. The Alliance headquarters will be located in Uganda. 

Guri said many African countries under their economic blocs have already drafted  the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Legal framework  and the majority are more likely to sign these into  laws.

He said the proposed laws will hurt local plant breeders  in several countries by allowing the entry of foreign companies. He said this will threaten the right of the small scale farmers to access cheap seeds. 

Guri, who is also the chairman of AFSA, asked African legislators to come up with a seeds policy which targets the interest of small scale farmers  

He said, “If African countries adopt  these laws  that allow multinational companies to dominate seeds manufacturing then the whole continent will experience food insecurity. Let our legislators enact laws that aim at protecting our indigenous seeds which can stand the African environment.”

Uganda’s parliament is currently debating the Plant Variety Bill  2010 which many farmers in the country are opposing.

Hakim Baliraine,  the Treasurer of the Alliance said, “Our parliamentarian should not pass that bill as it is because it will give more authority to the seed producing companies to control the supply of such seeds on the market. This also gives them a chance to cheat farmers with costly patented seeds on the market.  At the end, many farmers will be kicked out of agriculture thus exposing citizens to hunger.” 

Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempija, the MP for Kalungu East  in Kalungu District central of Uganda  said , “That is why the Parliament of Uganda has not passed the Biosafety Bill of 2012.” 

The National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012, also provides for a regulatory framework to facilitate safe development and application of biotechnology. However, the Bill has not been passed into law, because of the controversy associated  with GMOs .

By Samuel Nabwiiso, Monday, March 10th, 2014