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Food sovereignty activists are to protest a secret elite meeting being held in London convened by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

WHO: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID
WHAT: Meeting to promote increased corporate involvement in Sub-Saharan seed sector
WHEN: 9 AM, Monday 23 January, 2015
WHERE: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 62 Buckingham Gate, SW1E 6AJ, London

The meeting, which is titled “Multiple Pathways for Promoting Commercial and Sustainable Production and Delivery of Early Generation Seed of Food Crops in Sub-Saharan Africa,” is being criticised by activists for:

• Promoting increased corporate involvement in the global seed sector and the introduction of intellectual property rights for seed breeding companies. These moves will transfer more control of seeds away from small farmers and into the hands of multinational companies inviting corporations, development bodies, trade bodies and aid donors, yet not inviting any representatives of small farmers from Africa.
• Being convened by BMGF and USAID who are two of the main global driving forces behind the adoption of commercial, patented seeds among poor farmers in Africa. This drive is threatening farmers' rights to seeds and is a threat to biodiversity and sustainable farming practices.

The activists plan to hold a demonstration outside the London office of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in solidarity with African groups who are fighting for the right to their seeds. They will read out statements from African food campaigners and break open a giant “Monsanto” cage containing seeds to symbolise the importance of seeds being free from corporate control.

Protesters will also be demonstrating outside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s head office in Seattle, USA.

Heidi Chow, a food sovereignty campaigner at Global Justice Now said:
“The measures being advanced at this meeting will enable big agribusiness companies to take more control over seeds as they carve up African markets in the pursuit of profit, but at the expense of small-scale farmers. We need to ensure that the control of seeds and other agricultural resources stay firmly in the hands of small farmers who feed the majority of the population in Africa rather than allowing big agribusiness to dominate even more aspects of the food system.”

Mariam Mariet Director of the African Centre for Biosafety in South Africa said:
“ACB insists that an equitable and sustainable solution to seed production and distribution can only come from direct engagement with farmers and their organisations to ensure their active involvement in these activities. We further insist that public-farmer partnerships to improve seed that integrates farmer and scientific knowledge will generate a more accountable process, and produce longer-lasting and more meaningful solutions for African agricultural production, than these profit-driven, exclusive and narrow processes.”

Ali-Masmadi Jehu-Appiah, Chair of Food Sovereignty Ghana said:
"Seeds are vital for our food system and our small farmers have always been able to save and swap seeds freely. Now our seed systems are increasingly under threat by corporations who are looking to take more control over seeds in their pursuit of profit. This meeting will push this corporate agenda to hand more control away from our small farmers and into the hands of big seed companies."

For more information please contact Kevin Smith:

T (+44) (0)20 7820 4913 or (+44) (0)7711 875 345.
E [email][email protected]