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Ignore pressures to pass Plant Breeders Law - PFAG tells parliament

According to the Association, mega transnational seed and fertiliser companies will take advantage of the bill to kill smallholder farms in Ghana.

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The Bill is expected to improve the seed industry by providing a legal framework for the protection of the rights of breeders of new plant varieties and to enable Ghana to be in full compliance with obligations under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) of the WTO while promoting and encouraging investment in the seed industry.

However, the peasant farmers believe the Bill in its current form is inimical to Ghana's interests and will undermine the country's efforts in attaining food sustainability if passed into law.

They are therefore calling on parliament not to bow to pressure from any quarters in passing the Bill into law.

Below is the full statement from PFAG:

FOREIGN INTERESTS IN PASSING GHANA PLANT BREEDERS BILL INIMICAL TO GHANA AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT.

We are outraged by attempts of some international organisations and corporations to arm-twist Parliament into passing the Ghana Plant Breeders Bill (PBB) into law with all the negative implication to the Ghana agricultural development.

The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana on behalf of Ghanaian Farmers, Faith-Based Organisations, Traditional Authorities, Civil Society Organisations, NGOs and Consumer Groups believe that the insidious methods being adopted by these otherwise respected institutions are troubling, if not disappointing.

Ghanaian farmers are profoundly grateful to the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho, the leadership and the entire Parliament of Ghana for remaining resolute and steadfast in not bowing to pressure from any quarters in handling the Ghana Plant Breeders Bill(PBB) which was smuggled into Parliament in 2013. Parliament after receiving credible information from Farmers, Civil Society Organisations, Faith Based, Traditional Authorities, Pressure groups and other pressure groups decided to suspend the Bill for further consultation. We still hope the House would do the right thing by consulting the key stakeholders of which we are part.

The Bill in its current form is inimical to Ghana and injurious to the hopes and aspirations of the poor Ghanaian small-scale farmer. It is so lob sided and unconscionable. The Bill does not recognise the right of indigenous seed growers, the right of local farmers, the right to plant and replant seeds, the right to save seeds and the right to market and share seeds (clause 58). The Bill insulates in a very blanket manner, foreign breeders from any liability in Ghana. That is, no law within Ghana can regulate their activities in the event of risk to environment and human health (clause 23). The Bill allows foreign breeders/corporations to grow any seeds including Genetically Modified Organism(GMO)seeds in any part of the world and dump them in Ghana (clause 9). The Bill strictly prohibits any Ghanaian farmer from planting, saving, replanting or sharing with their neighbours any seeds produced by these foreign seed companies (clause 58). On the bases of these and many other issues, we called for a new Bill; a“sui generis”, that meets our local conditions, motivates local breeders, rewards local seed growers and researchers for innovations and leads to knowledge transfer so as to create jobs for Ghanaians when such breeders grow the seeds in Ghana. Because of this the Honourable Speaker deferred consideration of the Bill for further consultation of which we indicated our willingness to engage with the House on this crucial Bill but then nothing has been heard. Farmers and other groups have made several efforts to create a platform for such a discussion but to no avail.

The current Plant Breeders Bill is only protecting the interest of foreign merchants and corporations who are finding difficulties in marketing their GMO seeds and agro chemicals because of health related issues discovered by scientists in developed countries. Because these poisonous products are now being rejected by farmers and consumers leading to an imminent collapse of the businesses of these merchants and corporation, the African market has become the next target.

These foreign interests have often used arguments like poverty, food insecurity, hunger, growing populations and climate change in Africa as some of the reasons why African farmers should adopt GMO. We believe strongly that all these challenges can be successful addressed by biotechnology that is suitable to our norms and environment. Our local Scientists are already doing a good job. Ghana must have control of its seed systems and food sovereignty.  However, this will be a mirage if this Bill is passed in its current form and grants total protection to foreign breeders.

PFAG and the Food Sovereignty Platform are aware of the power and influence these multinational corporations have over governments and we can only remind Parliament that they are representing the people of Ghana and therefore, must put their people first even in the face of mounting pressure from powerful governments and multinationals seeking their own interests.

Whilst we pray for God’s guidance and wisdom for theSpeaker and the entire Members of Parliament to take decisions in the interest of Ghana, we promise them of our full support in providing them with credible information on the PBB for the development of Ghana agricultural sector.

We further urge Parliament to ignore any calls by anybody claiming to be coming from farmers for the Plant Breeders Bill to be passed since no real farmer or seed grower will call for a law that will take away their right to save seeds, replant seeds and market seeds in their own country.

By

The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana

Signed by:

Abdul Rahman Mohammed

The National President

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