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The video series, “Rich Appetites: How Big Philanthropy Is Shaping the Future of Food in Africa,” explains why exporting the U.S. agribusiness model to Africa is a “grave mistake.”
“Rich Appetites” details how powerful corporations and foundations — including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) — have for decades attempted to shape Africa’s food policies, despite proof their intervention is doing more harm than good.
Now groups, including AFSA and AGRA Watch, are exposing the motives behind “philanthrocapitalism” and trying to empower local farmers.
‘Rich Appetites: Seeds’
“Seeds,” the second short film in the “Rich Appetites” series, explains how powerful companies obtain patents on locally developed seeds and then engineer genetically modified versions of them, using “seed privatization laws” to gain intellectual property protections.
Bernard Guri, executive director of the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development in Ghana, said laws intended to protect patented seeds hurt small farmers and traditional practices.
“Our local seeds are available to all farmers,” he said. “You don’t need to buy them.”
He explained that seeds are shared among friends and families in Africa. “These laws have a lot of negative effects on our small farmers,” he said.
The BMGF and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) — founded in 2006 by the BMGF and the Rockefeller Foundation — are using their influence to push for seed privatization in Africa, according to the film.
In some cases, according to the film, seed laws can make it illegal for subsistence farmers to exchange seeds or save them for replanting. These acts may be punishable by imprisonment.
As seed privatization laws enable consolidation, four seed corporations now control more than half of the global seed market.
Corporate control of seed violates farmers’ rights under international conventions and endangers people’s livelihoods.
It also shrinks seed diversity. In fact, more than 75% of traditional seed varieties worldwide have gone extinct over the last century, claims the film.
“In Ghana, food is not just about feeding the stomach,” said Guri. “It’s also medicine. If we lose this [seed] diversity, it means that some of our cultural practices are truncated. Some of our medicine that we get from our food is lost.”
People around the world have been developing and improving seed varieties without the assistance of corporations and legislation for more than 10,000 years, the film points out.
Seed commodification benefits only powerful agribusiness corporations, not the small farmers and communities they claim to want to help with so-called philanthropic work.