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The Misleading Fact About The Plant Breeders’ Bill!

The Plant Breeders’ Bill currently at the Consideration Stage before our Parliament is all about the imposition of genetically modified organisms into our food chain without any form of public awareness and participation in that decision. Far from simply dealing with the rights of the plant breeder, the Bill is designed in such a way as to pre-empt the eventualities of government regulations such as those calling for the labelling of GM foods, or the banning some of them for the sake of the environment or the health of Ghanaians.

joWNiEMRnMyNN8E3?This is what Clause 23 of the Plant Breeders’ Bill is about:

Clause?23: Measures regulating commerce.

?A plant breeder right shall be independent of any measure taken by the Republic to regulate within Ghana the production, certification and marketing of material of a variety or the importation or exportation of the material.?

The Bill seeks to pre-emptively knock out of order, any attempt by the government to control ?the production, certification and marketing of material of a variety or the importation or exportation of the material.??And the ?material of a variety? in question is described in Clause 20 (6) of the Bill as follows:

Clause 20?(6):

?(6) An essentially derived variety may be obtained for example by the selection of a

(a) natural mutant or induced mutant,

(b) somaclonal variant, or

(c) variant individual from a plant of the initial variety, back crossing?or transformation by genetic engineering.?

For more on the specifics of the bill see:?Plant Breeders? Bill Protects GMOs | Food Sovereignty Ghana?http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/plant-breeders-bill-protects-gmos/

Food Sovereignty Ghana is horrified by the mind-boggling attempts by people in responsible positions of public trust who are supposed to know better, to mislead the Ghanaian public and our law-makers that the Plant Breeders’ Bill has nothing to do with GMOs! The Bill has GMOs in the crossed hairs. The objective is to disable the ability of Ghanaians to legally challenge anything relating to the GMO imposition.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Mrs. Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, who ought to know better than this, has been a source of this misleading propaganda to divorce the Plant Breeders’ Bill from GMOs. She is on record to have challenged the FSG linkage of the PBB with GMOs at our meeting with the Parliamentary sub-committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

It is obvious that there is an orchestrated attempt not only to mislead Parliament into voting for the Bill, but also to throw dust into the eyes of the Ghanaian public about the real intent and import of the Bill vis-?-vis the enabling of the plant breeder to introduce GMOs into our food chain without any public awareness and participation in that decision.

As the debate regarding the linkage between the PBB and GMOs raged on, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) through Deputy Minister at MOFA in-charge of Crops, Dr Yakubu Alhassan, joined the fray to publicly deny pushing a?legalisation?in support of the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country.

?It has, therefore, described as untrue, recent discussions by some institutions, civil society organisations (CSOs) and individuals that the Plant Breeders Bill, currently before Parliament, was meant to give legal backing to the production and consumption of GMOs in the country?.?See:?No?plans to introduce GMOs into Ghana – Agric Ministry

Also, on December, 19, 2013, the Director-General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Abdulai Baba Salifu, was reported by the Ghana News Agency to have even organised a press conference to claim that ?The Plant Breeder’s Right Bill before parliament, is to protect crop variety breeders and has nothing to do with Genetically Modified (GM) foods as been speculated.? See:Breeders’ bill has nothing to do with GMOs ? CSIR?http://www.ghananewsagency.org/science/breeders-bill-has-nothing-to-do-with-gmos-csir–68771

It would have been bad enough as it is, even if it could be argued that these people in responsible positions such as the Attorney-General, Director-General of CSIR, and the Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture in charge of crops, made these these wild claims simply because they have not even bothered to read the Bill for themselves before pronouncing on an issue they have no idea of.

What is even alarming is the fact that these people continued to peddle their lies even after being publicly corrected by Prof. Walter Sando Alhassan during the FSG meeting with the Parliamentary sub-committee on Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs on?December 4, 2014. They continued to stubbornly peddle these lies even after this! There seems to be a discernible determination on their part to use plain lies and deceit to push the Plant Breeders’ Bill into law.

Considering the far-reaching implications of this Bill on our sovereignty as a people, our health, as well as the sanity of our environment, the behaviour of these public officials goes beyond gross dereliction of duty to a betrayal of public trust and criminal negligence. It is a sad commentary on the entire Mahama Administration that these officials are still in post, and not under investigation for possible conflicts of interest. Monsanto is notorious for bribing their way in several countries. And such blatant lies from people in responsible positions must give cause for concern.

The very fact that the Plant Breeders’ Bill has gone through First and Second Reading without expunging the obnoxious clauses from it speaks volumes of the vulnerability of our branches of government to undue external influences inimical to Ghana. The Bill is being rushed to comply with the World Trade Organisation’s WTO, Trade and Related Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPS-rules without proper scrutiny. Ghana does not have to make the plant breeder’s right over and above the laws of Ghana in order to be in compliance.

The level and quality of the debates on the floor of Parliament over the Bill betrays a lack of information critical in taking these far-reaching decisions. For instance, most Parliamentarians are even unaware that the Bill before them is asking them to evacuate their sacred responsibility to diligently protect the health and safety of Ghanaians. Fewer still even know that the Bill has anything to do with GMOs. And those who did know and tried to speak up, were told publicly, and without any challenge, as trying ?to confuse issues of botany with intellectual property?! See: page 483 of the Hansard, Plant Breeders’ Bill, 2013, Second Reading, 8th November, 2013.

It is under an atmosphere such as this that we call upon Parliament to defer debate on the Bill and begin to initiate a process of public consultations regarding the introduction of GMOs into our food chain. FSG feels very relieved that several civil society groups, workers’ unions, religious bodies, as well as political figures and heads of stake-holder public institutions have come out openly calling for a careful look, further public awareness and consultations, before proceeding. We particularly welcome the counsel by the Catholic Bishops Conference to the Parliament to ?make haste slowly? with the Plant Breeders’ Bill. Meanwhile, our goods are getting rotten in the farms, our farmers have no security of tenure, our roads are poor and there are a thousand of things the government can do to ensure food security. There is no reason to rush with the Plant Breeders’ Bill.

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

Ali-Masmadi Jehu-Appiah,

 

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