ARIPO Shuns African Farmers over PVP Protocol Abolishing Farmers’ Rights to Seeds

MEDIA ADVISORY: ALLIANCE FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IN AFRICA (AFSA)

Addis Ababa, 9th June 2015

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), a Pan African platform comprising civil society networks and farmer organisations working towards food sovereignty in Africa, and representing millions of small-scale farmers, has been shunned by the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO). AFSA’s repeated appeals to the ARIPO Secretariat to allow AFSA members to attend a Diplomatic Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, 29th-1st July 2015, where the highly contested draft ARIPO Plant Variety Protection Protocol (ARIPO PVP Protocol), based on UPOV 1991, is to be adopted, have been pointedly dismissed and ignored. Member States of ARIPO, which include 19 African countries, are expected to adopt the ARIPO PVP Protocol at the Diplomatic Conference. This Protocol prohibits the essential practices of many millions of farmers who engage in the age-old practice of seed exchanging, sharing and local rural trading.

Africa’s farmers have selected, bred and enhanced seed for use in their specific conditions since the birth of cultivation on the continent. Even today, 80% of all seed circulating on the continent is produced and circulated by farmers themselves. This farmer-based system was and remains the bedrock of food security for hundreds of millions of Africans. It is this age-old system of farmers’ rights that is under severe threat by ARIPO, governments and multinational corporations who have joined forces to prohibit these essential practices. AFSA is already on record in vehemently opposing the ARIPO PVP Protocol for some time now, on the grounds that it inter alia, severely erodes farmers’ rights and the right to seed and food.

The principal aim of the ARIPO PVP Protocol is to create a harmonised regional plant variety protection system within the region in order to give prominence to breeders and place restrictions on seed/varieties protected under such a system. Such protected varieties are bred and sold to farmers through seed companies and other private entities and government/private led subsidy agricultural programmes. The main goal is to facilitate the capturing of control of seed so that private companies can make profits by forcing farmers to buy seed and pay royalties.

If the draft ARIPO PVP Protocol is to be adopted without changes, ARIPO and any ARIPO member that ratifies the Protocol can join UPOV 1991. This means that any member state of ARIPO can simply side step national consultation processes and ratify the ARIPO Protocol, and in doing so, give up its national sovereignty to a centralised decision making authoring, and further, become a UPOV 1991 member- all in one foul undemocratic swoop. AFSA is of the view that the whole process of developing the draft Protocol is fundamentally flawed, has been extremely untransparent and thus lacks credibility and legitimacy.

Member States of ARIPO, many of whom are Least Developed Countries and not obliged to put any PVP legislation in place until 2021, and possibly even beyond that, should support AFSA’s calls that the Diplomatic Conference be postponed indefinitely, and subjected toa thorough evidence-based impact assessment/cost-benefit analysis, taking into account the conditions prevailing within the ARIPO regionas well as meaningful national consultations involving all key stakeholders, especially smallholder farmers. These demands are fully supported and required by international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Article 9(2c) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

ENDS// 568 words

Contact:

· Dr. Million Belay: millionbelay@gmail.com or afsa@afsafrica.org

· Ms. Mariam Mayet: mariam@acbio.org.za

Notes to Editors

1. AFSA members include the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), Comparing and Supporting Endogenous Development (COMPAS), Coalition for the Protection of African Genetic Heritage (COPAGEN), Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), FAHAMU, Fellowship of Christian Churches and Councils in West Africa (FECCIWA), Friends of the Earth Africa (FoEA), Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), Groundswell Africa, INADES Formation, Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC), La Via Campesina Africa (LVC), Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM), Plate-forme Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d’Afrique Centrale (PROPAC), Réseau africain pour le droit à l’alimentation (RAPDA – Togo), Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organizations of West Africa (ROPPA), Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA), Tanzanian Alliance for Biodiversity (TABIO), World Neighbours.

2. ARIPO is an Intergovernmental Organization for cooperation among African states in patent and other intellectual property matter and has 19 members spread across East, West and Southern Africa.

3. UPOV 1991, International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of December 2, 1961, as revised at Geneva on November 10, 1972, on October 23, 1978, and March 19, 1991. UPOV 1991 was developed by industrialised countries to address their own needs, and does not reflect the concerns and conditions of African nations. UPOV 1991 imposes a “one-size-fits-all” and an inflexible legal framework which limits the ability of countries to design national laws that suit their individual needs.

4. The following countries are members of ARIPO: Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda, São Tome and Principe, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe (Total: 19 Member States).

5. For more background information on AFSA’s concerns regarding the ARIPO PVP Protocol, see ARIPO’s Plant Variety Protection Law Based on UPOV 1991 Criminalises Farmers’ Rights and Undermines Seed Systems in Africa. Available at: http://www.acbio.org.za/images/stories/dmdocuments/AFSA-ARIPO-Statement.pdf [1]http://www.acbio.org.za/images/stories/dmdocuments/AFSA-Susbmission-ARIPO-PVP- Protocol.pdf