Today, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are convening a secret meeting to promote a recent report detailing in clear terms how to privatise the seed and agricultural markets of Africa. The meeting is being criticised for including corporations, development bodies, trade bodies and aid donors, yet excluding any African farmers or representatives of affected organisations.
This morning in response food justice campaigners held a demonstration outside the offices of the BMGF in London, with placards calling on the foundation to ‘free the seeds’ and handing out packets of open-pollinated seeds as a symbol of the alternative to the corporate model promoted by USAID and BMGF. A papier mâché piñata representing the commercial control of seed systems was smashed by the protesters, with thousands of seeds inside being spilled over the steps of the entrance to the BMGF. A twitterstorm has also been taking place aimed at the Gates Foundation using the #freetheseeds hashtag
The London meeting will discuss a study produced by Monitor-Deloitte which was commissioned by the Gates Foundation and USAID. BMGF is a major sponsor of the commercialisation of agriculture in Africa including through its subsidiary the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Critics have argued that this commercial agenda extends foreign policy into Africa on behalf of corporate interests, threatening the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers who rely on recycling seed for their livelihoods.
Although historically, in Africa and around the world, farmers have been the traditional developers and distributors of improved seeds, the study does not consider a potential role for farmers in the production or distribution of seed. Instead, farmers are viewed only as passive consumers of seed produced elsewhere.