No consultations by Parliament on Plant Breeders’ Bill – Food Sovereignty
Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), a food advocacy group says, it is stunned to learn that the Plant Breeders’ Bill (PBB) is returning to the floor of Parliament without consultation with stakeholders as ordered by the Speaker.
“We take this opportunity to remind the Speaker(Mr Edward Doe Adjaho) of what he said on Tuesday, November 11, 2014, the last time the bill came up on the floor of the House at the Consideration Stage: ‘I would urge for further consultation’.”
A statement issued by Kwaku Andoh Baffour of the Communications Directorate of FSG quoted Mr Alban Bagbin, Majority Leader and then Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs Committee as saying: “This calls for further consultation.”
“So far there has been no consultation and no attempt to inform apart from some propaganda efforts by the Genetic Modified Organism lobby.
“We therefore find it strange that the Plant Breeders’ Bill is coming back to Parliament without a single consultation with any of the groups that have petitioned Parliament,” Food Sovereignty said.
It said the bill is critical to the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development, General Agricultural Workers Union, Catholic Bishops Conference, Ghana Muslims Mission, National House of Chiefs and Christian Council of Ghana, Apex Farmers Network of Ghana, Food Span and Ghana Trade and Livelihoods Coalition.
The statement said a news conference organised by PFAG in collaboration with these groups was a clear indication that none of these critically important Ghanaian organisations have been consulted.
The group said as petitioners, they have a legitimate expectation of being consulted.
“The Plant Breeders’ Bill and the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol are a danger to Ghana, a danger to sustainable agriculture and a danger to our ability to feed ourselves in the face of climate change.
“Both bills promote breeders’ rights over and above farmers’ rights, as well as promoting formalised cross-border seed trade over farmers’ informal seed exchange systems, threatening farmers’ rights to save, use, share, and sell seeds, and threatening seed diversity.
“Both bills only incentivise uniform varieties. The Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates that about 75 per cent of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost due to the proliferation of uniform commercial varieties replacing native land races.
“Both bills present a devastating threat to our ability to preserve our seed varieties, sustain our agriculture, and adapt to climate change.”
It said the PBB and the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol are two versions of the same bill. Both cede Ghana’s legal sovereignty to foreign corporations.
This provision in both bills is entirely unnecessary for Ghana to comply with the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
It said Ghana has full flexibility under the WTO to develop an effective “sui generis” system for plant variety protection, to develop a unique system that suits its needs.
The statement said: “Parliament has no mandate or constitutional authority to cede any aspect of our independence to plant breeders, local or foreign! It is unconstitutional to pass a law containing Clause 23 of the Plant Breeders’ Bill.
“The same clause is also found in the Arusha New Plant Variety Protocol which is expected to go before Parliament for ratification.
“If either bill is passed it will be necessary to challenge the passage of the Plant Breeders Bill and the ratification of the Arusha Protocol at the Supreme Court for the protection of Ghana’s Constitution, our farmers, our citizens, and our sovereignty.
“Ghana must have sovereignty over our seed germplasm resources. It would be wise to mandate that any entity or individual, who provides germplasm resources to any foreign entity, organisation or individual in co-operation to conduct research, shall make an application and submit a national benefit-sharing scheme.
“There must be genuine consultation with Ghanaian farmers about these laws, not just with representatives of foreign corporate interests.
“We seek to register our deepest disappointment over the fact that Parliament appears to be going ahead with this legislation without any consultation with key stakeholders that we know of in spite of the fact that the very reason for its suspension was, as the Speaker put it, the need for further consultations with stake-holders.”