The latest salvo in the battle over Africa’s seed systems has been fired, writes Stephen Greenberg, with the Gates Foundation and USAID playing puppet-masters to Africa’s governments – now meeting in Addis Ababa – as they drive forward corporation-friendly seed regulations that exclude and marginalize the small farmers whose seeds and labour feed the continent.
A battle is currently being waged over Africa’s seed systems. After decades of neglect and weak investment in African agriculture, there is renewed interest in funding African agriculture.
These new investments take the form of philanthropic and international development aid as well as private investment funds. They are based on the potentially huge profitability of African agriculture – and seed systems are a key target.
Right now ministers are co-ordinating their next steps at the 34th COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) Intergovernmental Committee meeting that kicked off yesterday, 22nd March, in preparation for the main Summit that will follow on 30th and 31st March 2015.
COMESA’s key aim is to pave the way for a “Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in 2017 under the auspices of the African Union” with uniform regulations, including on agricultural products, seeds and GMOs.
A recent meeting on biotechnology and biosafety was held to establish a “COMESA biotechnology and biosafety policy implementation plan” (COMBIP) to roll out from 2015-2019, “leading to increased biotechnology applications and agricultural commodity trade in the region.”
But read between the lines and its real purpose was to facilitate the planting and commercialization of GMO crops in Africa all at one go, instead of country by country. USAID Regional representatives for East Africa, based in Nairobi, were present to monitor the process and ensure the desired outcome.