AGRA Watch is a grassroots, Seattle-based group challenging the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s questionable agricultural programs in Africa, including its Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The Gates Foundation and AGRA claim to be “pro-poor” and “pro-environment,” but their approach is closely aligned with transnational corporations, such as Monsanto, and foreign policy actors like USAID. They take advantage of food and global climate crises to promote high-tech, market-based, industrial agriculture and generate profits for corporations even while degrading the environment and disempowering farmers. Their programs are a form of philanthrocapitalism based on biopiracy.
Recent updates and actions:
A summary by AGRA Watch intern Sarah Muniz
In February 2022, the African Union (AU) came out in support of two sets of guidelines for the harmonization of seed and the use of biotechnology in food and agriculture in Africa, despite public concern and outrage over the decision. Biotechnology in agriculture centers largely around genetically modified crops, which are typical of industrial agriculture and often have negative impacts on small-scale farmers–especially women–by “reinforcing indebtedness, inequality, and social exclusion.”
By contrast, the African Center for Biodiversity (ACB) supported a task force in 2021 to integrate farmer-managed seed systems (FMSS), which help to promote seed sovereignty and farmer autonomy, into the continental harmonization framework. However, the AU’s new pro-biotech guidelines risk destroying the FMSS, continuing to support large agricultural companies and the private sector over small-scale farmers. The AU’s guidelines portray agriculture more as a corporate-captured institution than as a practice used by millions across the globe.
Furthermore, the AU has not been transparent in publicly disclosing the new continental guidelines for seed harmonization, nor the regulatory frameworks for biotechnology use in food and agriculture. ACB is concerned that the AU is playing an active role in the “corporate takeover of seed, food, and agricultural systems on the continent.” In response, ACB is currently demanding transparency. It remains to be seen what effects these decisions will have, and how the AU will be held accountable.
Read the African Centre for Biodiversity’s full analysis of these draconian new guidelines here
To learn more about the struggle over Africa’s seed systems, watch the second film in our film series here