Zambian Alliance: Government urged NOT to sign Protocol on Protection of new Plant Varieties

Friday, 26 June 2015
Lusaka Times

The Zambia Alliance for Agro-Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation has called on government not to sign the African Region Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) draft protocol on the protection of new plant varieties as it criminalizes small scale farmers’ rights to seed and threatens local food security.

The alliance made the call today during a media breakfast held at Chrisma Hotel in Lusaka.The alliance says the protocol if signed will also undermine the national seed and food sovereignty.

Alliance Chairperson Emmanuel Mutamba in a presentation said the protocol will also kill the practice of freely saving, exchanging and selling indigenous seeds by small scale farmers and will instead be monopolized by multinational seed companies.

Mr. Mutamba said the alliance’s concerns are that any decision that undermines the country’s agriculture system and affects small scale farmers who are the major producers of the bulk of the food should not be entertained.

From June 29th to 1st July 2015, a Diplomatic Conference of the African Regional Intellectual property organization (ARIPO) will take place in Arusha, Tanzania where the draft Plant Varity Protocol is expected to be adopted, and Zambia being a member is expected to sign.

Mr. Mutamba noted that the country has already in place a well-developed seed regulation and legislation system through the 2007 plant breeders’ rights act which is more inclusive and safe guards’ national interest.

Mr. Mutamba explained that the draft ARIPO protocol is inconsistent with the Zambian act as it accommodates the demand of industries from developed countries particularly Europe.

He said these industries, once given a chance, will monopolize the seed industry and put to an end the tradition of recycling seed which is very popular among rural farmers.

Mr. Mutamba pointed out that there is need for the Zambian government to join calls to have the ARIPO diplomatic conference postponed indefinitely until all the contentious issues raised by farmers in the affected countries are resolved.

And speaking during the same function, Rolf Shenton, a conservationist said the world was today facing an environmental crisis as communities were not looking after the environment properly.

Mr. Shenton said failure to adhere messages of caring for the environment is now leading to the current climate change effects being experienced.

He said the Zambian seed market is been targeted by many multinational companies because of its business potential.

“Zambian should guard against agreements that disadvantage poor farmers and the environment. Such companies if not stopped, will lead to the complete abandoning of the traditional open pollenated seeds which are more environmentally friendly and healthy,” said Mr. Shenton.