COMESA seed registration law to be debated

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An organization that specializes in food security has called for the creation of an action plan to safeguard Africa’s sovereignty over its food, seed and natural resources.


Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) said Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are threatening traditional and effective farming methods on the continent.
“Some corporations are saying the only way Africa would be able to have food independence and security is through these modified seeds, what we are saying is to the contrary. By simply altering the existing way of farming, we will be able to increase productivity,” said Mariam Mayet, Director of the African Center for Biosafety.
AFSA says it also wants to shed light on a seed registration law drafted by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and The Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA).
It will be considered by COMESA member governments – including Ethiopia – in September.
The draft law is raising concern among many farmers because of the fact that it creates a compulsory regional registration system, allowing only the marketing of private sector seeds, while criminalizing the sale of smallholder farmers’ seeds.
Meanwhile, the African Regional Intellectual Property Office (ARIPO) and the South African Development Community (SADC) have drawn up a draft intellectual property framework that grants property rights only to the private sector, preventing smallholders from using, exchanging and selling seeds.
AFSA also criticized the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition plan, saying they promote the interests of multinational seed, fertilizer and agro-chemical companies at the expense of smallholder farmers.
“We are outraged at the way African governments are being strong-armed into adopting seed laws that ensure the dominance of corporate seeds; giving private breeders a monopoly and exclusive marketing rights over seeds,” said Elizabeth Mpofu, from La Via Campesina Africa.
Currently, 80 percent of seed in Africa is bred by smallholder farmers, who freely save and share seed, resulting in a wide diversity of agricultural crops and a safety net for food security.