Biopiracy
Objections and comments to the Biodiversity Management Plan for Pelargonium Sidoides, August 2011 PDF Print option in slimbox / lytebox? (info) E-mail
Friday, 26 August 2011 08:05

Management of Pelagonium

This document contains the African Centre for Biosafety's (ACB)'s objections and comments to the Biodiversity Management Plan for Pelargonium sidoides, published by government on 29th July 2011.

The ACB raises a number of fundamental problems with the proposed plan, including that the process followed in developing the plan is legally and fundamentally flawed. We also take issue with its treatment of socio economic issues, benefit sharing, traditional knowledge, the export-oriented natural resource extraction model implicitly been adopted and foisted upon local communities and over reliance placed on traditional authorities concerning control over land and resource rights.

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How US sorghum seed distributions undermine the FAO Plant Treaty's Multilateral System PDF Print option in slimbox / lytebox? (info) E-mail
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 16:10

New data from ICRISAT and the US Department of Agriculture and a comparison of genebank records indicates that half of more of ICRISAT's sorghum genebank collection is also being distributed outside of the Multilateral System. This yawning gap creates an economic incentive for the Multilateral System and its benefit sharing requirements to be avoided.

USDA's sorghum germplasm customers, who are primarily corporate and commercially oriented academic breeders, are taking advantage of this perverse incentive. In the past six years, they have ordered four times more ICRISAT genebank seeds from USDA than from ICRISAT itself. Globally, it is likely that more distributions of Multilateral System sorghum take place without an SMTA than occur with one.

Recipients of large USDA distributions of sorghum are not obligated to share benefits and do not comply with the restrictions of the SMTA on patenting parts of the material. Under present circumstances, the promise of the Multilateral System cannot be fulfilled for sorghum, a crop of global food security importance, particularly in Africa. Further, even if the US ratifies the ITPGRFA, a vexing problem has been created by USDA's recent massive distributions of Multilateral System sorghum germplasm to institutions potentially not bound by the Treaty's provisions, such as Texas A&M University.

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Agrochemical giant DuPont to sell Bolivian sorghum gene PDF Print option in slimbox / lytebox? (info) E-mail
Saturday, 19 February 2011 13:54

In 2012 multinational giant DuPont plans to begin selling sorghum varieties containing a valuable gene taken from a sudangrass that was collected in 2006 in Bolivia. The gene, branded as 'Inzen A II', makes sorghum plants tolerant to herbicides made by DuPont and other companies, and was acquired under exclusive license from Kansas State University (KSU)in the United States KSU hasfiled for patents in the US under the patent cooperation treaty.KSU, DuPont, and the two professors who claim to have 'invented' the Bolivian gene have all refused to explain how they acquired the Bolivian Seed.

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African Millet Under Threat PDF Print option in slimbox / lytebox? (info) E-mail
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 06:51
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has focused several recent reports on new international commercial interest and patent claims on the African native crop sorghum. This includes the issues raised by the proposed widespread use of sorghum for the production of agrofuels.
This report extends ACB's examination of new international commercial interest in African native crops, by including a focus on pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) and related African native grass species in the Pennisetum genus.i

Globally, pearl millet is less widely sown than sorghum, yet it is a key food and feed crop in arid and semi-arid parts of Africa and Asia (particularly India). Pearl millet occupies smaller but significant markets in the US, Europe, and elsewhere, where it is mainly grown for animal feed and forage. In the US, for example, pearl millet is grown on about 600,000 hectares each year. To a lesser extent, it is also grown outside Africa for human food.

Other African pennisetums, such as Napiergrass, are also economically important outside Africa. They are sold in the lucrative landscape plant markets, as lawn grasses, and as feed and forage for the bird and exotic game hunting industries.1 In the United States, recent interest in African pennisetums as landscape plants has led to a variety of new patent claims.

Like sorghum, one reason pearl millet is of interest to these markets, is its' tolerance of dry, even desert-like conditions, and of low fertility soils. These characteristics are likely to be increasingly important in Africa and elsewhere as a result of climate change. Pearl millet is typically inexpensive to grow and may be sown on land where more water-intensive plants, like maize, would perish without irrigation. These advantages have stimulated interest in the use of millet to produce ethanol for agrofuels from grain. There is a further interest in use other pennisetum species to produce agrofuels from plant biomass.

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Sorghum and the Antioxidant Craze: What Benefit for Africa's Farmers? PDF Print option in slimbox / lytebox? (info) E-mail
Friday, 04 February 2011 07:53

A hiSorghum_Antioxidantghly successful health food company in the United States, Silver Plate Inc, is seeking to cash in on the health benefits of sorghum. More particularly, it has begun to commercialize foods rich in sorghum anthocyanins, natural "antioxidant" chemicals found in some strongly coloured plant foods that are believed to have heart and other health benefits.

Unlike many major cereal crops, high antioxidant genetic traits are readily available to sorghum breeders. This is because of the work of generations of African farmers, who selected and bred coloured sorghums for various purposes, including dyes for fabric, making food crops resistant to depredation by birds and disease resistance.

The owners of Silver Palate have a successful track record in the health foods sector. In 2007, they sold one of their companies, which makes fat-free imitation butter, for US $490 million.1 Now, these same entrepreneurs are interested in sorghum. They have entered into agreements with major US supermarket chains to sell sorghum products, including breakfast cereals, baking mixes and crackers.
Silver Palate is negotiating to gain rights to sorghum varieties held by Texas Agricultural & Mechanical University (Texas A&M), from its enormous collection belonging to African farmers. Although it is a public university, Texas A&M is highly proprietary in its approach to seeds. It considers the vast majority of the thousands of farmers' varieties of sorghum that it possesses, and the breeding lines into which it puts African genes, to be proprietary.

Texas A&M is working to turn its sorghum collection into a university and personal profit centre. It is demanding fees and royalties from Silver Palate in return for access to African-derived sorghum seeds. Two thirds of the income will be allocated toward the cost of maintaining intellectual property claims and paid as personal profit to a Texas A&M plant breeder. The University is making no plans, and feels it has no moral or legal obligation, to share any benefits from the deal with African farmers.

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