Thursday, April 10, 2008

Privatising biodiversity

"There have been concerted efforts from certain quarters to promote the use of hybrid seeds in Uganda. Early last year, a grant of 150 million dollars was provided to the country and its neighbours by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

The money is to pay for more research into hybrid seeds, the provision of inorganic fertilizers, water management and extension services to facilitate the propagation of these seeds.

According to the government source, the US Agency for International Development's project, known as the Uganda Agricultural Productivity Enhancement Program (APEP), has also been actively advocating the adoption of stronger intellectual property rules, including the use of biotechnology.

Tukundane Cuthbert is an extension worker, someone who helps farmers improve their productivity. He outlined the promises and pitfalls of hybrid seeds as follows: "The hybrid cabbage takes only three months and then you can harvest it.

"Our traditional variety takes six months and there is no time for leaving the land fallow before you have to replant. With the hybrid cabbage, we can have more harvests per year.

"But the seed can only be used once and that is all. We could use our traditional seeds over and over again. This means that at the end of the season (when we have used hybrid seeds), we have to buy new seeds. Those of us who are poor and can't go to the market then cannot eat. Or we have to borrow and it is difficult to get collateral.

"The hybrid seeds are high yielding, but we cannot afford to buy the technology and maintain it. I wish the government would empower the local researchers to own the technology," Cuthbert said.

Another extension worker, John Kisembo, who works with Caritas in Uganda, was even more sceptical about the wonders of hybrid seeds. Caritas is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organisations." (Thanks Kirsten)

From Global Research. The site has got excellent articles on food systems and agribusinesses

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