African Centre for Biodiversity News

24 February 2022. African Union endorses corporate captured policy guidelines for seed and biotechnology for the continent.

AFRICAN UNION ENDORSES DRACONIAN, UNDEMOCRATIC AND CORPORATE CAPTURED POLICY GUIDELINES FOR SEED AND BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR THE CONTINENT

The African Union (AU) has endorsed the continental guidelines for the harmonisation of seed and regulatory frameworks and the continental guidelines for the use of biotechnology in food and agriculture in Africa, despite fierce resistance from African civil society. 

On 16 February 2022, we found out that these two set of guidelines had been endorsed by the “AU policy organs.” This was according to an email communication sent from the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (DARBE), of the African Union Commission (AUC). And, despite requests in writing for access to these documents, they are yet to be put in the public domain.

We are outraged at the totally untransparent and undemocratic manner in which these decisions have been made by the AU – particularly the AUC – illustrative of a wholly corporate-captured institution. As outlined in our
latest call to reject the validation of the guidelines – particularly the seed harmonisation guidelines – our key concerns include the following:

  • Lack of sufficient time for adequate consultations, particularly in the light that the guidelines are linked to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and other efforts seeking to harmonise corporate-centred laws on the continent for the facilitation of risky trade and investment,
  • Dangerously situating FMSS and farmers’ rights within the context of a commercial seed sector agenda,
  • Supporting a formal seed sector value chain that seeks to monopolise seed for the private sector, locking out farmers’ seed – with a clear focus on private seed sector expansion and emphasis on private seed development and production over the public sector, for the benefit of the seed industry and industrial agriculture,
  • Promoting continental-wide adoption of the authoritarian and unsuitable draconian International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) 1991, as a means and benchmark for harmonising plant variety protection (PVP),
  • Capturing of peasant struggles by some interest groups, thereby misrepresenting FMSS and hijacking the struggles of small-scale food producers of Farmers’ Rights, by incorporating the farmers’ rights discourse within an extractive, industrial and commercial agriculture paradigm,
  • Rushing with indecent haste, a hugely problematic and illegitimate process, which speaks to larger issue of democracy on the continent and a betrayal of the democratic rights of the African people.

 

In addition, the draft document on the biotechnology guidelines has
gone ahead to promote modern biotechnology through biased and distorted narratives, even problematising the precautionary approach
as a barrier to wider diffusion of genetically modified (GM) products on the continent.

With this, we are deeply concerned that the AU is playing an active role
in coordinating and actively promoting the corporate takeover of our seed, food and agricultural systems on the continent.

We are yet to see what the new guidelines entail and will continue demanding that the AU become accountable to the African people and ecologies, rather than to corporations that promote their interests.
You can read the alert here.

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