On this day in 1961, a Geneva-based intergovernmental organisation with six European member States took the first step to colonise seeds. The UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden founded the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), setting in motion a strategy to strip communities’ rights to seeds in favour of corporate control.
The African Union (AU) has embarked on a mission towards harmonising seed regulatory frameworks across the continent, beginning with the establishment of a set of Guidelines on seed law harmonisation.
The African Centre for Biodiversity, along with other civil society organisations and farmers’ associations from Africa, have actively engaged in the development of these Guidelines. In April 2021, we attended an online stakeholder consultation and then provided preliminary comments.
For over two decades, and in defence of life and democracy, diverse constituencies in Africa have promoted the rights of small farmers and their seed systems, and have expressed and continue to express concern related to the use and governance of modern biotechnology on the continent. We include smallholder farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, hunter/gatherers, indigenous peoples, citizens, environmentalists, scientists, and cooperative civil society mechanisms. All are legitimate rights holders on the continent, of whom the African Union (AU) is supposed to be a representative mechanism.