April 15, 2007

News Release: Food Sovereignty or Green Revolution 2.0?

This time the “silver bullet” has a gun
ETC Group released a 16-page review of five new initiatives intended to launch what ETC dubs “Green Revolution 2.0” in Africa.  Leading the charge is a plan to construct four Centers of Excellence together with a second initiative called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.  “The Green Revolution that followed World War II focused on semi-dwarf, high-yielding plant varieties” says Pat Mooney, ETC Group’s Executive Director. “It was a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it silver bullet,” Mooney adds, “Africa left it.” In other words, Green Revolution technologies were inappropriate for the needs and resources of African farmers. ETC Group’s communiqué warns that, in Green Revolution 2.0, “big-box” science is being buttressed by a strategy to restructure African agriculture.  Although the cornerstone of the new revolution will still be high-tech seeds, the G-8 and private foundations also want continental changes in market structure, intellectual property laws, and seed regulation so that agribusiness suppliers can profitably sell seeds, chemicals, and other inputs to farmers.  “Big-box science will be linked to small box suppliers,” Mooney argues, “This time, the silver bullet has a gun.”

While a comprehensive approach to African agriculture seems logical, ETC Group is concerned that all of the major initiatives are “top-down” exports from OECD countries.  Nobody is talking to farmers or their organizations.  The Canadian government, for example, is building a $30 million biotech research facility in Nairobi to pursue genetically modified crops.  The request came from an international research network headquartered in Washington – not from Africans.  Likewise, the Gates/Rockefeller AGRA initiative already has a detailed plan on how to spend its first $150 million but admits that it has yet to talk with African farmers’ organizations.  AGRA is currently cobbling together an “African” NGO.  “AGRA has allocated $10 million to give to farmers’ organizations,” says Hope Shand, ETC Group’s Research Director, “but it hasn’t talked to them yet.”

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