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28 January, 2017

Tanzanian farmers are facing heavy prison sentences if they continue their traditional seed exchange!

In order to receive development assistance, Tanzania has to give Western agribusiness full freedom and give enclosed protection for patented seeds. “Eighty percent of the seeds are being shared and sold in an informal system between neighbors, friends and family. The new law criminalizes the practice in Tanzania,” says Michael Farrelly of TOAM, an organic farming movement in Tanzania.

Brutal corporate onslaught against third world - Part 3 - Ownership for investments

Intellectual property rights ensure that farmers have better access to technology”, claims Kinyua M’Mbijjewe, head of Corporate Affairs in Africa for Syngenta. Syngenta is a Swiss company that produces seeds and agrochemicals alongside Yara, one of the two largest players in the private sector in the NAFSN.

A company that wants to invest wants to be sure that its technology is protected. African farmers have been sharing, bartering and trading their seeds as a form of tradition. For farmers who want to continue to do so, it is important that they have that choice.” Kinyua M’Mbijjewe claims not to be aware that the Tanzanian legislation no longer allows that freedom of choice. This is strange, since Syngenta is one of the companies that is part of the leadership council of the NAFSN, meaning that they negotiate directly with the partners about the changes in legislation which must be met in exchange for aid.

Nevertheless, according to the Tanzanian Government, the legislation never intended to penalize small-scale farmers, only to protect their property rights – that is, if they patent their own seeds.

But who’s going to sell non-certified seeds? Small-scale farmers do not have the means to get a patent for their seeds”, says Janet Maro.

The government is working on a revision of the seed legislation. We hope that they will add an exception for small-scale farmers and will expand the Quality Declared Seed System,” says Michael Farrelly.

The Quality Declared Seed System gives quality guarantee for seed. It is a kind of compromise, because quality is cheaper and easier to obtain than a patent.

Currently, a farmer is allowed to sell recognized seeds in only three surrounding villages, but the government says it wants to expand this at the district level with the new legislation. “That way, the seeds could be sold in seventy villages, which is economically viable,” says Farrelly.

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Big corporations are grabbing huge cultivable areas especially in the developing countries in order to control food production.

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