Plant variety protection bill will spell doom for agriculture — Expert warns
An Environmental activist and Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey has warned against passage of Plant Variety Protection (PVT) Bill into law, saying it would spell disaster for agriculture and farming in Nigeria
The PVT, he said, “allows plant breeders to register their patent on their seeds, such that anyone who produces the seed without their assent will be criminalized, and it can get to a point where the seeds that are not registered will be barred from being used.”
Bassey, speaking during a stakeholders’ forum on food policies, said the bill, which is currently before the President, would make it a criminal offence, if any farmer duplicated or shared the seed registered under the law.
“The bill aligns with the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), a patent driven system formulated without participation of African countries.
“From my interpretation of the convention, it was designed by countries where agriculture is a business rather than a way of life, and the sector is driven by capitalists, where focus is making money and nothing else.”
He warned that for a country like Nigeria, where farming is a way of life, and seeds are exchanged freely, the Bill will throw spanners in the way Nigerian farmers produce seeds and foods.
He noted that although proponents of the Bill argued that when the law was passed in Vietnam, it led to increase food production. But the truth is that, the Bill will open the back door for genetically modified varieties.
He demanded that the Bill be withdrawn, saying: “This is the time for the Bill to be withdrawn and returned to the drawing board for real public consultations and inclusion of small-scale farmers’ view, as they risk being criminalised through legislation.
Bassey lamented lack of coherent food policy that showed where the country was going in terms of food availability, access, and proof that having food was a right. He warned against underestimating food produced by small-scale farmers, saying they feed “between 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the Nigeria’s population.”
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