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Did Monsanto Write Malawi's Seed Policy?

04:40 EDT 24 Aug 2017 | Meridian Institute

In this opinion piece, Timothy A. Wise, who directs the Land and Food Rights Program at Small Planet Institute and is a research fellow in the Globalization Program at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute, United States, notes that a recent directive from the Malawi Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development, in conjunction with the Seed Traders Association of Malawi, said that at seed fair events, “only quality certified seed suppliers registered with Government to produce and/or market seed should be allowed to display seed at such events.” The policy, he continues, seeked to define the word “seed” as only applying to certified seed from commercial companies. According to Wise, some 80 percent of the crops grown in Malawi come from farm-saved seeds, many of which are displayed, exchanged and sold at local seed fairs. What this press release implied, he said, “in no uncertain terms, was that henceforth farmers would not be allowed to display their seeds. The formal and informal seed sectors have coexisted for decades. Why was the Malawian government, embroiled in a controversy over a still-unfinished seed policy, threatening to ban farm-saved seed from the market?” Wise spoke with Dr. Wilkson Makumba, Malawi’s Director of National Research Services and the person in charge of the seed policy. According to Makumba, farmers in Malawi need to be weaned off their “primitive ways” and be forced to adopt commercial maize varieties. The seed policy, Makumba added, was final and there would be no more negotiations over farmers’ rights. Later, when speaking with Tamani Nkhono-Mvula, the longtime director of CISANET, the Malawi’s umbrella network on agricultural policy, who supported the seed policy draft, Wise commented that the policy sounded like it was written by Monsanto. According to Wise, Nkhono-Mvula said, “Actually, a Monsanto official was one of the two authors of the seed policy.” Concludes Wise: “It is difficult to imagine a more egregious conflict of interest than allowing a seed company executive to write a government policy that threatens to outlaw farmers’ saving and exchanging of seeds in order to open new markets for his company. The government’s seed policy should go back to the drawing board, and those doing the drawing should not have a direct financial interest in the outcome.”

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