Patents, Climate Change and African Agriculture

GM climate craze seizes African food

Media Release by the African Centre for Biosafety

Johannesburg 1 October 2009

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has today released a report exposing the patents and players involved in appropriating key African food crops to produce genetically modified (GM) climate crops. According to the report, biotechnology is being used to identify “climate genes” in African crop plants, which are able to withstand the stresses that are likely to become prevalent as the world’s climate changes. By patenting genes that can withstand stresses like drought, heat and salinity corporations are positioning themselves to turn a fat profit.

Monsanto, working through strategic partnerships, is at the forefront of patenting key African food crops such as sorghum, maize, peanut, cotton, wheat, manioc, sugar cane and banana for their ‘climate’ properties including stress tolerance, biomass accumulation and drought tolerance.

Israeli company Evogene, partially owned by Monsanto, is claiming more than 700 “climate gene” sequences in a single patent application. The claims extend to the use of gene sequences in key crops in Africa such as millets and sorghum, and even targets African Teak wood species. Another Monsanto partner, US based Ceres Inc, is aggressively filing patent monopoly on a wide variety of climate-related genes for both agrofuels and food crops.

Swiss Syngenta, Monsanto’s GM competitor is standing in line for patents in respect of drought tolerance in sorghum and rice. Pioneer Hi Bred, Du Pont Corporation and BASF are also involved in filing numerous climate change related patents.

“It is clear that Monsanto, Syngenta and others are positioning themselves to penetrate African agriculture markets clutching the climate change banner. We condemn the expediency of the biotechnology industry in trying to profit from impending tragedy to further its own selfish corporate interests” said Mariam Mayet, Director of the ACB.

The ACB calls on African governments to investigate the patent claims, especially those resembling classic ‘biopiracy’ in asserting ownership of African genetic resources that are then sold elsewhere for profits.

The Full Briefing titled “Patents, Climate Change and African Agriculture: Dire Predictions can be downloaded from (or from the link at the bottom of this page)

Contact Mariam Mayet for further information on 083 269 4309


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