The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) recently issued a statement strongly condemning the Council of Minister’s of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) approval of the draft COMESA Seed Trade Harmonization Regulations.
The COMESA Seed Regulations are geared towards “creating an enabling environment for massively increased private sector participation in seed trade in the COMESA region.” It will greatly facilitate agricultural transformation in the COMESA member states towards industrialized farming systems which produce registrable genetically uniform, commercially bred seed varieties. Due to the COMESA Seed Certification System and Variety Release System which implements strict “distinctness, uniformity and stability” (DUS) requirements of seeds, many small farmers in Africa seeking to produce or maintain locally adapted seed varieties will be excluded and unable to participate in the COMESA system.
The extent of how the variety release and seed verification provisions will impact the conservation of plant genetic diversity of heirloom, traditional, open pollinated varieties (which are typically unregistered plant varieties which do not meet the DUS requirements) remains an enormous concern.
According to AFSA, the COMESA seed trade regulations draft does nothing to safeguard genetic diversity from being eroded, but rather, lays “the groundwork for the commercialization and commodification of African agriculture.”