Promise Eweh is a PhD Candidate at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana. His current research focuses on the implications of GM crops for food security in Ghana. This study has become crucial as academic and policy research have pointed to the enormous benefits of biotechnology for addressing issues of food insecurity in Africa. Besides agricultural development, other areas of interest to Promise include Employment and the Informal Economy in Africa.
Seeds are small, why should we be concerned about them? A political economy of the ‘African green revolution’
In recent years, the agrarian literature has focused on land grabbing in the Global South. Food has received considerable attention in these discussions, with the food crises being recognised as one of the factors that triggered land grabbing. This study seeks to show that increasing commercialisation is not restricted to the land sector but to other means of production as well. The study argues that analyses of food security based on commercialisation models or studies that emphasize increasing farmers’ access to inputs are inadequate as they fail to highlight the political economy of the seed sector. However a political economy perspective remains crucial particularly at a time when there are intense discussions about the potential of newer methods of seed development including genetically modified (GM) crops for improving productivity, food security and human health. The productivity literature, which promotes the adoption of GM crops, however fails to examine the important role played by agribusiness in these developments, and the likely implications these may have for farmers who have for a long period depended on practices such as seed saving and informal seed exchanges. To address these issues raised by the study, three main research questions were formulated: what factors determine the adoption of modern seed varieties; to what extent have the predominant seed systems in the different agro-ecological zones informed seed policies and laws in Ghana; and which actors are involved in seed policy making in Ghana and what influence do they exercise. Preliminary findings from the review show that farmers’ adoption of modern seed varieties is determined by several factors including their wealth and gender. Thus, there is a strong interaction between technology and existing social structures. This highlights the importance of viewing farmers as a dynamic group, instead of viewing them as an undifferentiated whole. Also, farmers are unlikely to benefit from the introduction of new technologies such as transgenic seeds as the entry of private corporations into seed production and marketing in the past two decades has eroded the rights of farmers to save, exchange and sell seeds due to the enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Affiliation: University of Ghana