Civil society organisations urge African governments to support moratorium
African civil society organisations have written an open letter stating their opposition to the delegations of Nigeria and South Africa at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
Nigeria and South Africa are supposed to be speaking on behalf of the African Group of countries but are lobbying in favour of synthetic biology (synbio) and gene drives – and against a moratorium.
The letter reads:
"As representatives of a broad range of African civil society organisations (CSOs), we do not feel represented by the delegations of Nigeria and South Africa, speaking on behalf of African Group, in their attempt to speak on behalf of the people of Africa on the issue of synthetic biology (synbio) and gene drive organisms (GDOs).
"Throughout the history of the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, African delegates have championed the defence of our biodiversity, protection of our seeds, indigenous agroecological practices and culture. They have always advocated the need for a precautionary approach.
"In the past, African delegates have strongly defended our ecological life-support systems from threats, such as Terminator technologies (seeds designed to be sterile).
"We are now alarmed at what is going on at COP14 and how our concerns for our environment, biodiversity and communities are being betrayed and threatened by delegates from some African nations. In particular, they are not representing our concerns about gene drives and synbio.
"Most countries in Africa are still grappling with the threats from basic genetic engineering and associated agro-toxics and do not even have experience or capacity for basic regulation of the risks for those first-generation genetic technologies, let alone synbio and GDOs.
"Gene drives, such as those being promoted by Target Malaria, aimed at releasing gene drive mosquitoes in Burkina Faso, are a deliberately invasive technology designed to propagate genetic material across an entire population - potentially wiping out entire species. As Africans, we are forced to confront this new and serious threat to our health, land, biodiversity, rights, and food supply.
"African government delegations appear to have been neutralised. They have fallen from grace on the altar of the multi-national corporations, gene giants and private foundations. The African group’s position at the CBD slavishly replicates the position of these interest groups.
"As Africans, we do not wish to be lab-rats for Target Malaria’s experiments. We refuse to be guinea pigs for their misguided disruption of our food systems and ecology.
"We call on the African and all other delegates to put the brakes on this exterminating technology. We reject any form of representation that is against the interest of our peoples and biodiversity. We call on the governments of Africa to call their delegates to order and avoid acquiescence to unfolding intergenerational crimes."
As of 19 November the letter is signed by the following organisations:
- Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa.
- La Via Campesina Africa
- Friends of the Earth Africa
- Coalition for the Protection of African Genetic Heritage (COPAGEN)
- CCAE Collectif Citoyen pour L’Agroecologie
- Fahamu Africa
- Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, Uganda
- Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF)
- Comparing and Supporting Endogenous Development (COMPAS Africa)
- West African Association for the Development of Artisanal Fisheries (ADEPA)
- Plate-forme Régionale des Organisations Paysannesd’ Afrique Centrale (PROPAC)
- Convergences Régionales Terre-eau et Autres Ressources Aturelles
- Network of West African Farmer Organizations and Agricultural Producers (ROPPA).
- Terre á Vie, Burkina Faso
- Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA)
- African Centre for Biodiversity
- Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC)
- Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (JVE International)
- Institute de Researche et de Promotion des Alternatives en Development Afrique (IRPAD)
- The Africa CSOs' Coalition on African Development Bank
- Health of Mother Earth Foundation
- Committee on Vital Environmental Resources, Nigeria
- The Young Environmental Network, Nigeria
- Community Empowerment Initiative (GECOME) Nigeria.
- Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative(GERI), Nigeria.
- Climate Change and Amelioration Initiative( ECCAI), Nigeria
- Pearls Care Initiative (PCI), Nigeria
- Intergrity Conscience Initiative (ICI).Nigeria
- Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Association
- Rural Women’s Assembly
- Rural Alliance for Green Environment (RAGE), Nigeria
- Bio Interrity in Natural Foods Awareness Initiative, Nigeria
- Initiative for Peace, Empowerment and Tolerance, Nigeria
- Integrity Conscience Initiative (ICI), Nigeria
- Eco-Defenders Network, Nigeria
- Green Alliance Network (GAN) Nigeria
- Rural Environmental Defenders (U-RED) Nigeria
Source: ETC Group
Photo: Protest against gene drives in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 2 June 2018