Food Sovereignty Ghana

A grass-roots food advocacy movement of Ghanaians both home and abroad!

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Report On Workshop On Biosafety, Seed Laws, Intellectual Property…

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Workshop WP_20140228_029[1]
Capacity Building and Skills Sharing Workshop on Biosafety Seed Laws, Intellectual Property & Farmers Rights: Towards Food Sovereignty

27-28th February 2014
Miklin Hotels, Accra, Ghana
Organized by Food Sovereignty Ghana in collaboration with the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) and the Third World Network (TWN).
Under the sponsorship of the Bread for the World


Part 1 Overview of Green Revolution and GM push in Ghana: players, motives, threats, and opportunities

Presented by Duke Tagoe, Deputy Chairperson, FSG

Overview of Green Revolution

“On March 7, 2012, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs released a white paper calling on the U.S. government to make global agricultural development and food security a priority agenda item at the G8 Summit, May 18-19. The white paper, developed by a bi-partisan working group of former government, international organization, business, and academic leaders, offers recommendations on how G8 governments can advance an international commitment to agricultural development in order to increase global food production and alleviate poverty.

The white paper urges G8 countries to sustain their financial commitments to food security and launch an international research initiative to develop new agricultural varieties resistant to weather extremes, water scarcity, disease, and related risks. It also recommends G8 members spur innovation and engage the private sector by reducing regulatory barriers, building capacity, strengthening intellectual property protections, and adopting and implementing policies to increase trade in commodities and food.”  [1]

These recommendations have been on the wish-list of the Rockefeller Foundation since 1999. But it has consistently been met with stiff opposition. When the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a joint  $150 million Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), it provoked immediate criticisms  that the proposal failed to take into account the failures of the original Green Revolution.  The  creators of AGRA claimed the initiative would bring benefits to the African continent’s impoverished  farmers who—they asserted—until then had been bypassed by the first Green Revolution.

“A day  later, probably in an orchestrated move, Jacques Diouf, Director General of UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), called for support for a “second Green Revolution” to feed the world’s growing population. UN boss Kofi Annan also weighed in to support the initiative. Iii ” [2]

First of all, it is not true that Africa was “bypassed” by the first Green Revolution. It simply failed.

“The original Green Revolution did in fact target Africa, but the extraordinary complexity of African farming systems and social relations doomed its one-size-fits-all model to failure. Nevertheless, in 1999, the Rockefeller Foundation launched its New Green Revolution for Africa initiative and was joined seven years later by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to form the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA’s stated mission is to “develop practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safeguarding the environment [working] across all key aspects of the African agricultural ‘value chain’—from seeds, soil health and water to markets and agricultural education.”[3]

The New Alliance For Food and Nutrition Security announced by President Obama during the 2012 G8 Summit is simply targeted at “the extraordinary complexity of African farming systems and social relations doomed its one-size-fits-all model to failure.” It is a faithful continuation of the same agenda initiated by AGRA in 2006. It also takes the trouble to make it all look as though these are initiatives being undertaken by Africans themselves.

“The appointment of Kofi Annan as AGRA’s chairman was a strategic decision that the Gates Foundation made to silence criticisms that its agricultural development agenda was a “White Man’s Dream for Africa.” In fact, this more reeks of Monsanto’s campaign: “Let the Harvest Begin.” Launched in 1998 to gain acceptance of GE crops around the world by projecting the benefits of the Green Revolution in Asia and its potential in Africa, Monsanto’s campaign managed to draw several respected African leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, to speak for a new Green Revolution in Africa. In response, all of the African delegates (except South Africa) to the UN Food and Agriculture Negotiations on the International Undertaking for Plant Genetic Resources in June 1998 issued a counter statement, “Let Nature’s Harvest Continue.” The delegates clearly stated their objection to multinational companies’ use of the image of the poor and hungry from African countries to push technology that is not safe, environmentally friendly, or economically beneficial.” [4]

Thus, for an overwhelming majority of Africans whose views were never consulted, the so-called Green Revolution is nothing other than an orchestrated corporate power grab over our agriculture. A rather curious accusation was levelled recently by the UK Environment Minister, Mr. Owen Paterson. Iin his speech at this year’s Oxford Farming Conference, after saying that Europe is risking becoming a ‘museum of world farming’ if it doesn’t open the door to genetically modified crops, he also said that decisions about adopting GM technology have to be based ‘on science’, and called all opposition to GMOs (genetically modified organisms) as ‘politically motivated’.”  [5]

Considering the zeal with which they seek to reduce everything under the sun into a commodity, under the banner of neolibralism, we can also safely make the claim that the attempts to use GMOs to boost big business profit, and the corporate use of biotechnology as a tool for domination and takeover of the global food system is also politically motivated. This is precisely what the so-called second Green Revolution is about.

The Players

It is very difficult to discuss the players, their motives, the threats, and the opportunities without bearing in mind the devastating effects on Africa’s agriculture, of the sort of policies they have imposed upon us in the past, and who benefited from those “mistakes”. And who is still living with their consequences.

For instance, I have in mind the constitutionalities by the Bretton Woods institutions on Africa’s agriculture. The Structural Adjustment Programme of the IMF and the World Bank alone ensured an erosion of Africa’s food security unprecedented in our history. The people of Haiti were even lucky to get an apology from former US President Bill Clinton for the devastating consequences of the remarkable failures of his agricultural policy in Haiti.

We are still waiting for our apologies from the World Bank, The IMF, and our so-called “development partners” who control these institutions. But make no mistake, just as the rice farmers of Arkansas were the grateful beneficiaries of former President Clinton’s “mistakes”, are the giant transnational corporations in the agribusiness. And they have a lot of “mistakes” for us simply because each “mistake” represents a lot of profit.

The GM push into Ghana was formally inaugurated at the 2012 G8 Summit that announced to the world, the formation of the “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition for Africa”, 18th May, 2012 to which the late President John Atta Mills was among Heads of the three African countries invited to the party. The symposium where this was announced had names like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Du Pont, Monsanto, Abbott, Elanco, Land O’Lakes, Walmart, as  sponsors. [6] All the biotech corporations are players.

In 1997, EuropaBio, the largest Biotechnology trade federation, representing 540 companies and 8 national associations, organized EuropaBio ’97, European Bioindustry Congress (June 25 – 27, Amsterdam). Faced with a hostile European reception to their products and a bleak prospect for their respective businesses, they commissioned Burson Marsteller (B-M) the world’s largest PR firm, operating from 60 offices in 30 different countries, to write up a strategy proposal for achieving a change in public ‘perceptions’. The document was leaked to Greenpeace:

“The federation were advised to stay clear of form of public debate and particularly the industry’s ‘killing fields’ – namely ‘Public issues of environmental and human health risk’. The task of persuading consumers to embrace genetically modified products should be left to those charged with public trust – politicians and regulators. Instead, the industry should concentrate on the spread of positive stories and symbols, eliciting a message of ‘hope, satisfaction, caring and self-esteem.’ ‘Symbols’, they add, are ‘central to politics because they connect to emotions and not logic’. The public, they advised, should be convinced that genetically altered products are not simply safe but ‘environmentally superior to standard crop varieties’.”  [7]

The Motives

Another big hurdle they faced was the recommendation in the final report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology (IAASTD) which called for low-input agro-ecological methods of farming as the way forward. Thus, before this “New Alliance”, the “players” we having a tough time penetrating Africa to the satisfaction of their greed. The “New Alliance” was to change all that. The entire event was a gigantic publicity of Olympic proportions exclusively for the interested in the promotion of their wares. It was exactly what Chomsky will call, “the manufacturing of consent”.

The motive is to ignore the wise counsel of the IAASTD and to impose GM foods by-passing all international conventions, agreements, and reports, and force the hands of governments into making what President Obama referred to as “tough decisions” in his opening remarks. It is my interpretation that the only reason such decisions could be “tough” is because they are made without any popular awareness, let alone, participation. It is therefore part of their motives, to sneak this whole thing on us. They have every intention to take us unaware. An attempt to “round us up” whilst we are still sleeping.

“Organic cultivation has been characterised as an enemy of progress for the simple reason that it cannot be monopolised: it can be adopted by any farmer anywhere on earth, without the help of multinational companies. Though it is more productive to grow several species or several varieties of crops in one field, the biotech companies seek to reduce diversity in order to make money, leaving farmers with no choice but to purchase their most profitable seeds. This is why Monsanto and their allies have spent the last ten years buying up seed breeding institutes and lobbying governments to do what ours has done: banning the sale of any seed which has not been officially – and expensively – registered and approved.” [8]


1. The Green Revolution actually deepens the divide between rich and poor farmers. In the 1960s at the beginning of the first Green Revolution, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations promoted industrial-style agriculture in the Global South through technology “packages” that included modern varieties (MVs), fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. The high cost of these purchased inputs deepened the divide between large farmers and smallholders because the latter could not afford the technology. In both Mexico and India seminal studies revealed that the Green Revolution’s expensive “packages” favored a minority of economically privileged farmers, put the majority smallholders at a disadvantage, and led to the concentration of land and resources (Frankel 1973; Hewitt de Alcantara 1976).

2. Over time, Green Revolution technologies degrade tropical agro-ecosystems and expose already vulnerable farmers to increased environmental risk. Following the early socioeconomic failures, governments started subsidizing the Green Revolution packages in an effort to encourage adoption by smallholders. In areas where smallholder farmers did adopt the package, the spread of MVs greatly increased the use of pesticides and fertilizers, often with serious health, environmental and economic consequences.

3. The Green Revolution leads to the loss of agro-biodiversity, the basis for smallholder livelihood security and regional environmental sustainability. Diversity is an important nutritional resource of poor communities, but the spread of MVs was accompanied by loss of local crop varieties and a trend toward monoculture which reduced dietary diversity and increased malnutrition.

4. Hunger is not primarily due to a lack of food, but rather because the hungry are too poor to buy the food that is available. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has shown that famine is fundamentally a problem of democracy, poverty and food distribution. While the architects of AGRA dutifully recite the Green Revolution’s oft-trumpeted claims to success in raising agricultural yields, there is little understanding of the causes of hunger, or of the Green Revolution’s colossal failure: it did not effectively reduce poverty or hunger.

5. Without addressing structural inequities in the market and political systems, approaches relying on high input technologies fail. The growing hunger in Africa is largely due to the increased impoverishment of the very rural peoples who once grew food, but who have now left farming. Today’s African farmers could easily produce far more food than they do, but they don’t because they cannot get credit to cover production costs, nor can they find buyers or obtain fair prices to give them a minimal profit margin. Under such circumstances, what difference will a new “technology package” make? Without addressing the causes of why African farmers leave farming—or why they under-produce—AGRA will have little impact on this trend.

6. The private sector alone will not solve the problems of production, marketing and distribution The first Green Revolution was introduced through the massive institutional support systems of the Indian and Mexican development states. Government agricultural ministries provided training, credit, research and extension, marketing, processing and distribution services to farmers who adopted Green Revolution technology. These heavy state subsidies created a market for private sector entry into the seed, fertilizer, machinery and trade activities in the Green Revolution. Few of these services are remotely available today. xii

7. Introduction of genetic engineering—the driving force behind AGRA initiative—will make smallholder systems more environmentally vulnerable in Sub-Saharan Africa. AGRA’s directors openly admit that their conventional crop-breeding approach will pave the way for genetic engineering technology. Both the Gatesxiii and the Rockefeller Foundations xiv are actively financing projects in genetic engineering (Bill Gates also has substantial private investments in GE xv). However, GE increases the risks of environmental failure on smallholder farms:

The expansion of transgenic maize and soybean monocultures in Africa will not only narrow the genetic base of indigenous agriculture but will also cause environmental risks. There are many widely accepted environmental risks associated with the rapid deployment and widespread commercialization of genetically engineered (GE) crops (Altieri, 2004; Altieri et al 2005; Altieri and Rosset, 1999a,b; Independent Science Panel, 2003):

8. The introduction of GE crops into smallholder agriculture will likely lead to farmer indebtedness. The expansion of GE crops in the Global South is driven by powerful transnational corporations that—in the face of growing public rejection of GE foods in the industrialized world—are desperately attempting to expand their markets in the Global South. While touted as the latest “silver bullet” in the war against hunger, GE crops will likely impoverish poor farmers by making them dependent on expensive external inputs:

9. AGRA’s assertion that “There Is No Alternative” (TINA) ignores the many successful  agroecological and non-corporate approaches to agricultural development that have grown in the wake of the Green Revolution’s failures. Truly reducing hunger requires policy changes that are far more important than technology fixes. To use crude economics language, we could say that any “supply side” (i.e. seeds and fertilizers) approach is useless until “demand side” problems (fair prices) are resolved. At best, the “right technology” plays only a complementary role. In this context, only agroecological technologies that have positive effects on the distribution of wealth, income, and assets, that are pro-poor, can have a synergistic effect in the reduction of hunger. Thousands of examples of the application of agroecology are at work throughout the developing world, where yields for crops that the poor rely on most—rice, beans, maize, cassava, potatoes, barley—have been increased by several-fold, relying on local biodiversity, family labor and new and traditional agroecological knowledge.

10.AGRA’s “alliance” does not allow peasant farmers to be the principal actors in agricultural improvement. The Rockefeller and Gates Foundations consulted with the world’s largest seed and fertilizer companies, with big philanthropy, and with multilateral development agencies, but have yet to let peasant farmer organizations give their views on the kind of agricultural development they believe will most benefit them. [9]


We already know what to do. The final report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology (IAASTD) had recommendations which continue to receive confirmation each time there is some independent study on Africa’s agricultural needs. The agrochemicals and biotechnology industry, were obviously unhappy with the conclusions in the IAASTD report. They withdrew from the process before the final meeting with claims that industry perspectives, particularly its view that genetically modified (GM) crops are key to reducing poverty and hunger, were not adequately reflected in the report.

“The report’s lack of specific support for GM crops was, however, based on a rigorous and peer-reviewed analysis of the empirical evidence. After consideration of the evidence on both sides of the debate, the report is notably muted in relation to the claimed benefits of GM crops, highlighting instead the lingering doubts and uncertainties surrounding them. For poor farmers, the report concludes, GM crops are unlikely to play a substantial role in addressing their needs. In any case, longer-term assessments of the environmental and health risks, and regulatory frameworks, are needed.”

Another key concern highlighted in relation to GM crops is the dominance of the biotechnology industry in agricultural R&D, at the expense of other agricultural sciences. Furthermore, the report noted that farmers face new liabilities from GM crops, particularly as a result of the detection of GM crops in conventional and organic crops that leads to patent infringement suits and loss of certification, respectively.”  [10]

The way forward is a simple one. It is one of low-input, agro-ecological, sustainable agriculture. The onslaught they have unleashed must create new opportunities for solidarity. And it is already happening. A quick glance at this hall will confirm that.

[1] Upcoming G8 Summit Can Make New Progress in Advancing Global Food Security

[2] Food First Policy Brief No.12: Ten Reasons Why the Rockefeller and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations’ Alliance for Another Green Revolution Will Not Solve the Problems of Poverty and Hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa , October 2006 , By Eric Holt-Gimenez, Ph.D., Miguel A. Altieri, Ph.D., and Peter Rosset, Ph.D

[3] Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA) | Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy]

[4] Voices From Africa: African Farmers & Environmentalists Speak Out Against a New Green Revolution in Africa |

[5] Genetic modification: A means of making profit | The Socialist 26 February 2014

[6] 2012 Symposium, Advancing Food And Nutrition Security At The G8 Summit, May 18, 2012, Washington, D.C.
[7] [PDF] Monsanto’s Failing PR Strategy – The FrankenFood Files,, File Format: PDF/
[8] George Monbiot, Organic Farming Will Feed the World:

[9] Bill and Melinda Gates Misguided Plan to Attack Hunger in Africa – pb12.pdf
[10] Briefings for MOP 4: 4th Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, 12-16 May 2008, Bonn, Germany, Overhaul of agriculture systems needed

[10] Briefings for MOP 4: 4th Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, 12-16 May 2008, Bonn, Germany, Overhaul of agriculture systems needed

Part 2. The G8 New Alliance and mobilization in Germany

Presented by Stig Tanzmann Bread for the World


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