The fight for seed freedom


23 March 2015

Today US AID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are hosting an invite-only, secret meeting with aid donors and big seed companies to discuss a strategy to make it easier for seed companies to sell patented ‘improved’ seeds in Africa. However this agenda will increase corporate control over seeds, benefitting big companies at the expense of small farmers in Africa.   

‘Whoever controls seeds, controls the food system’

For generations, small farmers have been able to save and swap seeds. This vital practice enables farmers to keep a wide range of seeds which helps maintain biodiversity and helps them to adapt to climate change and protect from plant disease. However, this system of seed saving is under threat by corporations who want to take more control over seeds. Big seed companies are keen to grow their market share of commercial seeds in Africa and alongside philanthropic organisations like the Gates Foundation and aid donors, they are discussing new ways to increase their market penetration of commercial seeds and displacing farmers own seed systems.

Corporate-produced hybrid seeds often produce higher yields when first planted, but the second generation seeds will produce low yields and unpredictable crop traits, making them unsuitable for saving and storing. This means that instead of saving seeds from their own crops, farmers who use hybrid seeds become completely dependent on the seed companies that sell them. Often the seeds are sold in packages with chemical fertiliser and pesticides which can lead to spiralling debt as well as damaging the environment and causing health problems.

 “Women farmers have few resources and do not want seed that we can plant for one season only or seed that is owned by companies. We believe in our own seeds that we can access from our own collections or from our farmer networks, free of charge.”

Beatrice Katsigazi Eastern and Southern Africa Farmers Forum, Uganda

Global Justice Now along with the UK Food Sovereignty Movement are protesting at the meeting today in solidarity of with small scale farmers in Africa who are fighting for their seed freedom. You can help to expose this corporate agenda by joining in with our twitter action on Monday.

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