Undermining farmers’ rights and seed systems: Why the EAC seed and plant varieties bill must be disbanded
As described in the vlog and our detailed report, Concerns with the draft EAC Seed and Plant Varieties Bill, September 2018 version , and summary, Undermining farmers’ rights and seed systems: Why the EAC Seed and Plant Varieties Bill must be disbanded , the East African Community (EAC), a regional intergovernmental organisation consisting of six Partner States: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, has developed a seed legislative framework, the EAC Seed and Plant Varieties Bill 2018. The EAC Bill is part of ongoing efforts to bring about regional harmonisation of seed and plant variety protection laws in the East African region.
The EAC framework incorporates a Seed Bill (seed registration, variety release, seed certification and marketing), phytosanitary measures, and plant variety protection (PVP) into an all-in-one regional seed draft law. All these focus exclusively on the formal or commercial seed sectors, further entrenching the control of the seed sector by multinational seed companies. Once adopted, the EAC framework will be legally binding on all member states.
Regulations have also been developed together with the Bill, signifying an urgent and hasty process for its adoption. The Bill has been formulated for the benefit of corporate seed producers and breeders, paving the way for the private sector’s domination of seed production and the free trade in corporate so-called “improved seed” across borders in the EAC, by doing away with the need to comply with national seed regulatory and PVP systems. It utterly undermines farmers’ rights and criminalises age-old practises of seed exchange and sale on the part of smallholder farmers in the region.
The process for the development of the bill has flouted the EAC Treaty in that it has been extremely non-transparent, with limited public participation and consultations at both national and regional levels.
The PVP section of the Bill is highly problematic, as it is modelled on the heavily criticised and controversial International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV) 1991 Act, which has been vehemently opposed by African civil society and farmer organisations – for several years now – for undermining farmers’ rights. The Bill proposes a centralised PVP system for plant variety protection in the EAC region under a regional EAC Seed coordination office, which poses serious threats to national sovereignty of EAC Partner States.
Civil society in the EAC region is asking policy makers to disband the EAC Bill in its entirety. It is crucial that conversations and discussions over a comprehensive farmer managed seed system process and policy is had in the region by policy makers, which includes recognition of farmers’ seed and farmers’ rights.
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