An aid program is serving up African nations on a silver platter—to Monsanto.
The deal threatens to rob and imprison farmers needing aid, while growing profits for the Ag giant.
Tanzania recently enacted a law that criminalized seed sharing, an ancient agricultural practice that is widespread in many parts of the world and critical to local farming. Under the new legislation, if a farmer buys seeds from Monsanto or Syngenta, those companies retain the intellectual property rights. For instance, if a farmer saves some seeds from the first harvest, those seeds can only be used on that farmer’s land for non-commercial purposes. This new law threatens an essential practice for many of these farmers.
The penalty for sharing seeds is twelve years in prison or a fine of over 200,000 euros. The average wage of a farmer in Tanzania is two dollars a day.
According to news reports, about 90% of African farmers depend on their seeds for survival. The informal sale or exchange of seeds allows farmers to be independent from the commercial seed business, while allowing poor farmers to have resilient crops at affordable prices. Eliminating seed-sharing closes off a fundamental source of revenue for poor farmers.
Tanzania did not enact this law out of thin air. An aid program launched by the G8 (the US, UK, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, the European Union, and Russia) in 2012, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN), promises aid in the form of agricultural investment to the ten African member countries, but only on the condition that countries receiving aid enact political reforms that help Big Ag at the expense of small farmers who produce 70% of the world’s food.
This excerpt from The Guardian says it all:
[NAFSN] will lock poor farmers into buying increasingly expensive seeds – including genetically modified seeds – allow corporate monopolies in seed selling, and escalate the loss of precious genetic diversity in seeds – absolutely key in the fight against hunger. It will also open the door to genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa by stopping farmers’ access to traditional local varieties and forcing them to buy private seeds.
NAFSN also calls for countries to help foreign investors take over agricultural lands. This “aid,” in short, is the wedge that Big Ag and biotech companies are using to get a stronger foothold in Africa, leading many critics to call the schemes a “new wave of colonialism.” We tend to agree. Depriving farmers of their livelihood is hardly a way to battle poverty and hunger.
Unsurprisingly, there are already reports that NAFSN is failing. Canadian authorities conducted a review of NAFSN’s progress in Senegal. The Canadian government concluded that there was no evidence that NAFSN “was effective in reducing poverty, improving food security and nutrition, or addressing the challenges faced by women in the Senegalese context.”
This story underscores the depths to which biotech companies like Monsanto and Syngenta will sink to, and why they must be vigorously opposed at every opportunity. Not only have they proven to be reckless with our health, they are intentional about attacking the livelihoods of some of our planet’s neediest.