Food Sovereignty Ghana

A grass-roots food advocacy movement of Ghanaians both home and abroad!

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April 27, 2016
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Replace Plant Breeders’ Bill With A “Sui Generis” PVP System.

Food Sovereignty Ghana calls on Parliament to completely withdraw the UPOV-compliant Plant Breeders’ Bill and replace it with a “sui generis” plant variety protection (PVP) system suitable to our conditions. This call has become necessary in the light of the announcement by Parliament to provide “organisations and the general public the unique opportunity to have their say in the passage of any law through the BILL SYMPOSIUM SERIES” [1].

First of all, we would like to reiterate our call for the publication of a report on the consultations so far undertaken by Parliament since the Plant Breeders’ Bill appeared before Parliament in June, 2013. [2] We note that it is almost three years now since these consultations begun. We are also aware that a lot of petitions have been presented to Parliament. It does no one any good to ignore all these and organize a one-day symposium to replace such valuable and detailed work already presented to Parliament over the years.

We find the inclusion of the Plant Breeders’ Bill in these series a strange addition for the simple reason that just a few weeks ago the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Select-Committee on Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. George Loh, MP for North Dayi Constituency, claimed in  a radio interview with Host, Kweku Vander-Pallen on XYZ 93.1fm in on Wednesday, 16th March 2016 that:

These consultations have supposedly been going on since 11th November 2014. We therefore believe that these series must not be used as an excuse for not accounting for the time and energy of Ghanaians who have already petitioned Parliament. There is absolutely nothing new to say that has not been said before. We are finding it difficult to shake off the thought that this is a way of avoiding the publication of the report on the consultations so far done by Parliament.

Hon. George Loh confesses in the same interview mentioned above that, “The Plant Breeders’ Bill, I always say is the most misunderstood bill in our Parliament”. What prevents Parliament from publishing the report and clearing the air? Is the organisation of this symposium not also going to end up with a similar claim that “If after consultations, you do stand where you are, fine”? If not, we would like to know why Parliament still “stands at where they are” despite it being pointed out on several occasions that the Plant Breeders’ Bill (2013) is illegitimate and must be withdrawn?

“We have done extensive consultations. We even did two consultations carried live on television with all stake-holders. So, nobody can pretend that we haven’t spoken to people… If after consultations, you do stand where you are, fine! We have consulted… We have looked at the petitions. We’ve invited all the relevant people. We sat with Food Sovereignty Ghana, the Attorney-General, we’ve had all the consultations and all the meetings.” [3]

We take notice that this announcement of Monday, 15th April, 2016 on the BILL SYMPOSIUM SERIES follows closely our earlier call on March 29, 2016 for the publication of the report on the consultations of stake-holders ordered by the Speaker of Parliament. [4]

We strongly believe that it is about time that our Parliament shifts the discussion on the bogus UPOV-compliant Plant Breeders’ Bill to a focus on a “sui generis” PVP system for Ghana.

We have already pointed out that Ghana is a member of the World Trade Organization and the rights and obligations concerning intellectual property are governed by the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). According to Article 27.3(b) of the TRIPS Agreement, Ghana has to provide protection of plant varieties by an “effective sui generis” system. Ghana has full flexibility under the World Trade Organization (WTO) to develop an effective “sui generis” system for plant variety protection, i.e. to develop a unique system that suits its needs. [5]

This provision allows Ghana maximum flexibility in the design of plant variety protection (PVP). This is what many developing countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, India have done. The African Union Ministers have also recommended a unique Model Law for Plant Variety Protection.

We are not saying that plant breeders must not be protected. What we want is a system of protection that guarantees the rights of the plant breeder as well as the farmer. So far, neither government nor Parliament has accounted for the basis for the opting for UPOV 91. In the Memorandum to the Bill, we are only informed about the decision without any justifications. [6]

Ghana can protect plant breeder rights without necessarily opting for UPOV 91. The Bill is modelled on the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of 1991 (UPOV 1991) which is a rigid and an inflexible regime for plant variety protection (PVP). It is worth noting that today out of the 71 UPOV members, only a fraction – about 22 developing countries are members of UPOV. Most of these developing countries (e.g. Brazil, China, Argentina, South Africa) and even some developed countries (e.g. Norway) are not members of UPOV 1991 but rather UPOV 1978, which is a far more flexible regime.

It is about time Ghana develops a unique system that suits its needs. That is what an effective “sui generis” system for plant variety protection is about. This is why the UPOV-compliant Plant Breeders Bill ought to be withdrawn completely. It is certainly not “sui generis”. Even the amendments proposed to the Bill, currently before Parliament were dictated to Ghana from Geneva. So far, not even one of the amendments proposed by the petitioners appears anywhere. Every single amendment proposed, currently before Parliament, comes from UPOV in Geneva. [7]

Compare with: Proposed Amendments to the PLANT BREEDERS BILL, 2013 which is supposed to be at the Consideration Stage in the Parliament of Ghana. It is scandalously word for word! [8]

None of the demands by Ghana’s civil society and faith-based organisations have been included. For there to be a meaningful symposium, it would be professional to publish first the report on all the consultations, together with the proposed changes as a result of these consultations, so the symposium could serve as our final comments on this report. Otherwise, this symposium appears to be yet another convenient excuse to avoid accounting for the consultations so far and hiding under a symposium to pursue the same agenda.

Our first demand is that as a member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGRFA) we expect Ghana to take steps to realise farmers’ rights to use, sell, save and exchange farm-saved seeds, to protect their traditional knowledge and to allow their participation in national decision-making. Instead of rather than a Bill that is heavily tilted in favour of commercial breeders and which undermines farmers’ rights.

“Joining UPOV under UPOV 91 narrows the possibilities for states to adapt PVP law to individual country’s needs and to involve stakeholders effectively”.

“Farmers’ Rights” according to the ITPGRFA includes the right of farmers to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and other propagating material; the right to participate in making decisions, at the national level, on matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture; the right to equitably participate in sharing benefits arising from the utilization of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture; and the right to the protection of traditional knowledge relevant to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. It also recognizes “the enormous contribution that the local and indigenous communities and farmers of all regions of the world, particularly those in the centers of origin and crop diversity, have made and will continue to make for the conservation and development of plant genetic resources which constitute the basis of food and agriculture production throughout the world”. [9]

Secondly, the Bill also contains a “presumption” whereby a plant breeder is considered to be entitled to intellectual property protection in the absence of proof to the contrary. Usually the onus is on the applicant to prove that he or she has complied with the necessary requirements and is thus entitled to protection. But in this case there is a presumption in favour of the plant breeder.

This “presumption” provision and the lack of an explicit provision that calls for the disclosure of origin of the genetic material used in the development of the variety including information of any contribution made by any Ghanaian farmer or community in the development of the variety creates opportunities for breeders to misappropriate Ghana’s genetic resources using the PVP system and to exploit smallholder farmers.  Ghana’s farmers must not be criminalized by Ghana’s laws for practising traditional farming.

It is important to note that Ghana is a member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the Convention on Biological Diversity and both these instruments champion fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources. Including a disclosure of origin provision in the Bill is critical as it is widely recognized as an important tool to safeguard against biopiracy. Several countries have included such a provision in its their PVP legislation and there is no reason why Ghana should not do the same.

As eloquently expressed by a study by the German Government on the UPOV Convention, Farmers’ Rights and Human Rights – An integrated assessment of potentially conflicting legal frameworks:

It calls for the harmonising of the goals and obligations from different treaties while implementing PVP law.

“Goals and obligations from different international treaties, such as TRIPS, ITPGRFA and ICESCR, need to be harmonised if a country sets out to develop a national PVP law. The TRIPS agreement as such leaves sufficient discretion to governments to design PVP laws in such a way that the obligations of other treaties are addressed”. [10]

Thirdly, the Bill also lacks provisions that will ensure that intellectual property protection will not be granted to varieties that adversely affect public interests. It also provides a long list of plant breeder rights without any responsibilities. We strongly recommend the inclusion of a “Strict liability” clause, such as: “All approvals for introduction of GMO or their products shall be subject to a condition that the applicant is strictly liable for any damage caused to any person or entity.”

Finally, we recommend that any PVP law in Ghana must protect Ghana from biopiracy.  We recommend language such that: any entity or individual who provides germplasm resources to any foreign entity, organisation or individual in cooperation to conduct research, shall make an application and submit a national benefit-sharing plan. [11]

We call on all those who have petitioned either for or against, to join us in demanding the publication of a report on the consultations done so far, and the conclusions of Parliament. A public account of these consultations would not only satisfy the order of the speaker who indicated, “This is because it is important to inform the people of Ghana”. but render transparent all controversies surrounding the Bill.

We welcome the initiative to organize a seminar on a “sui generis” plant variety protection system. We think our attention should more be focused on that and do our best to draw the attention of our Parliamentarians on the need for a “sui generis” PVP system rather than another symposium on the same Plant Breeders’ Bill. There is nothing new to say on this that we have not said before!

We call for a new Bill! We call for a Bill that will be both Plant Breeders’ and Farmers like India’s Plant Breeders’ and Farmers Act. [12]

We also wish to take this opportunity to salute the farmers of Ghana, and the Peasant Farmers’ Association (PFAG) in particular, on the occasion International day of Peasant Struggle which is being celebrated by PFAG on 27th April 2016.

Happy International day of Peasant Struggle!

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

​Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Communications Directorate, FSG

Contact: Tel: +233 249867238 / +233 207973808
E-mail : info@foodsovereigntyghana.org
Website: http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FoodSovereignGH
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoodSovereigntyGhana

References:

[1]. #PlantBreedersBill,  Parliamentary News -BILL SYMPOSIUM SERIES https://twitter.com/FoodSovereignGH/status/724728659085504512

[2] Publish Report On “Consultations” Over Plant Breeder’s Bill! | Food Sovereignty Ghana http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/publish-report-on-consultations-over-plant-breeders-bill/

[3] Audio – FSG Interview with Radio XYZ on the need for “further consultations” on the Plant Breeders’ Bill | Food Sovereignty Ghana http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/audio-interview-on-xyz-93-1fm-in-the-morning-of-wednesday-16th-march-2016/

[4] The Hansard – Official Report for 11th November 2014  Publications | Parliament of Ghana http://www.parliament.gh/publications/30/906

[5] Ghana’s Plant Breeders Bill Lacks Legitimacy! It Must Be Revised! | http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/ghanas-plant-breeders-bill-lacks-legitimacy-it-must-be-revised/

[6] Ghana Plant Breeders Bill, 2013  Publications | Parliament of Ghana http://www.parliament.gh/publications/36/560

[7] UPOV’S AMENDMENTS TO GHANA’S Plant Breeders Bill 2013 – C_47_18_October_1_2013 pdf http://www.upov.int/…/en/c…/plant_breeders_bill_of_ghana.pdf,  Examination of the Conformity of the Plant Breeders’ Bill of Ghana with the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention http://www.upov.int/meetings/en/doc_details.jsp?doc_id=217902

[8] Proposed Amendments to the PLANT BREEDERS BILL, 2013 | Publications | Parliament of Ghana http://www.parliament.gh/publications/32/753

[9] UPOV’s Symposium on Interrelations between ITPGRFA & UPOV, Inadequate to Implement “Farmers Rights” Resolutions http://www.apbrebes.org/press-release/upov%E2%80%99s-symposium-interrelations-between-itpgrfa-upov-inadequate-implement-%E2%80%9Cfarmers download: PR01042016.pdf

[10] The UPOV Convention, Farmers’ Rights and Human Rights – An integrated assessment of potentially conflicting legal frameworks” is online and can be downloaded on the GIZ webpage: http://www.giz.de/fachexpertise/downloads/giz2015-en-upov-convention.pdf:

[11] African Union MODEL LAW , ALGERIA, 2000 — Rights of Communities, Farmers, Breeders, and Access to Biological Resources: AFRICAN MODEL LEGISLATION FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF LOCAL COMMUNITIES, FARMERS AND BREEDERS, AND FOR THE REGULATION OF ACCESS TO BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES [PDF]

[12] The Indian Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act: India’s Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act [PDF]

 

April 2, 2016
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Audio: FSG Interview on Shadowfm On GMOs, etc

Mr. Edwin Kweku Andoh-Baffour, Director of Communications, Food Sovereignty Ghana

Mr. Edwin Kweku Andoh-Baffour, Director of Communications, Food Sovereignty Ghana

Interview on Shadowfm, click here to listen:

PART 1

 

PART 2

 

PART 3

Speaker

March 29, 2016
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Publish Report On “Consultations” Over Plant Breeder’s Bill!

SpeakerFood Sovereignty Ghana calls on the Speaker to order publication of a report on the “consultations” that the Select-Committee on Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs undertook, following his request for “further consultations” with stake-holders on the Plant Breeders’ Bill when it came before the House on 11th November, 2014.

This call follows rather strange revelations by the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Select-Committee on Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. George Loh, MP for North Dayi Constituency, in an interview with Radio Host, Kweku Vander-Pallen on XYZ 93.1fm in the morning of Wednesday, 16th March 2016 in which he said:

“We have done extensive consultations. We even did two consultations carried live on television with all stake-holders. So, nobody can pretend that we haven’t spoken to people… If after consultations, you do stand where you are, fine! We have consulted”!

According to Hon. George Loh, the “consultations” that we have been expecting from Parliament since 11th November 2014, have already taken place without our knowledge! He even claimed in the interview that a meeting with FSG, prior to the Speaker’s call, on 4th December, 2013, was part of the “further consultations” called for by the Speaker on 11th November, 2014, almost a year later.

We are not claiming that we are the only group that petitioned Parliament that needed to be consulted. However, we see that almost all the groups that petitioned Parliament are still waiting to be ‘consulted. We wonder which groups actually were consulted? Why were most or all of the petitioners excluded? What was the basis of the  petitions of any groups that may have been consulted, and on what grounds were they rejected by the Committee?

On Tuesday, November 11, 2014, the last time the Bill came up on the floor of the House at the Consideration Stage, the Speaker ruled: “I would urge for further consultation”, he said to Hon. Alban Bagbin, Majority Leader and then Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. This call for “further consultation” was key to the unprecedented suspension of a Bill that was already at the Consideration Stage. The reason the Speaker gave for this unprecedented move was:  “This is because it is important to inform the people of Ghana”. http://www.parliament.gh/publications/30/906)

It therefore behooves the Committee to produce an official report detailing the “consultations” they claim to have done for all to know why Parliament still refuses to heed the demands of Ghanaian civil society groups and Faith-based organisations which who have formally petitioned them. The minimum courtesy one expects is at least a report detailing why their objections were not taken into consideration.

We particularly demand responses to these fundamental objections to the Plant Breeders’ Bill. All of these objections apply equally to the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol, a treaty version of the exact same bill.

1. Ghana can protect plant breeder rights without necessarily opting for UPOV 91. The Bill is modelled on the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of 1991 (UPOV 1991) which is a rigid and an inflexible regime for plant variety protection (PVP). It is worth noting that today out of the 71 UPOV members, only a fraction – about 22 developing countries are members of UPOV. Most of these developing countries (e.g. Brazil, China, Argentina, South Africa) and even some developed countries (e.g. Norway) are not members of UPOV 1991 but rather UPOV 1978, which is a far more flexible regime.

Ghana has full flexibility under the World Trade Organization (WTO) to develop an effective “sui generis” system for plant variety protection, i.e. to develop a unique system that suits its needs. In view of this, it is truly unfortunate and even irrational that instead of designing a PVP regime that reflects the agricultural framework and realities of Ghana as some other countries have done (e.g. India, Thailand, Ethiopia), Ghana is choosing to adopt and be bound by UPOV 1991 without any concrete evidence or impact assessment of the necessity and impacts of adopting such a regime.

Ghana is a member of the World Trade Organization and the rights and obligations concerning intellectual property are governed by the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). According to Article 27.3(b) of the TRIPS Agreement, Ghana has to provide protection of plant varieties by an “effective sui generis” system. Sui generis means “unique” system of protection. This provision allows Ghana maximum flexibility in the design of plant variety protection (PVP). This is what many developing countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, India have done. The African Union Ministers have also recommended a unique Model Law for Plant Variety Protection. See: Ghana’s Plant Breeders Bill Lacks Legitimacy! It Must Be Revised! | http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/ghanas-plant-breeders-bill-lacks-legitimacy-it-must-be-revised/

The public has a right to know why our Parliament is insisting on the UPOV-91 model for Ghana!

2. As a member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGRFA) we expect Ghana to take steps to realise farmers’ rights to use, sell, save and exchange farm-saved seeds, to protect their traditional knowledge and to allow their participation in national decision-making.

It is thus extremely disappointing to see that the Bill is heavily tilted in favour of commercial breeders and undermines farmers’ rights. The Bill does not allow farmers to sell and exchange seeds. A farmer’s use of farm-saved seeds on his own holdings is limited to “personal use” and regulation by the Minister and may be subject to payment of royalties.

3. The Bill also contains a “presumption” whereby a plant breeder is considered to be entitled to intellectual property protection in the absence of proof to the contrary. Usually the onus is on the applicant to prove that he or she has complied with the necessary requirements and is thus entitled to protection. But in this case there is a presumption in favour of the plant breeder. This “presumption” provision and the lack of an explicit provision that calls for the disclosure of origin of the genetic material used in the development of the variety including information of any contribution made by any Ghanaian farmer or community in the development of the variety creates opportunities for breeders to misappropriate Ghana’s genetic resources using the PVP system and to exploit smallholder farmers.  Ghana’s farmers must not be criminalized by Ghana’s laws for practising traditional farming.

It is important to note that Ghana is a member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the Convention on Biological Diversity and both these instruments champion fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources. Including a disclosure of origin provision in the Bill is critical as it is widely recognized as an important tool to safeguard against biopiracy. Several countries have included such a provision in its their PVP legislation and there is no reason why Ghana should not do the same.

4. The Bill also lacks provisions that will ensure that intellectual property protection will not be granted to varieties that adversely affect public interests.

5. Amend or repeal Clause 23! The offending clause reads:

“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.”

FSG’s position on this is that it is important for the Bill to be coherent with Ghana’s sovereignty plus other legislation and national interests such as the protection of the environment, health, prevention of misappropriation of genetic resources etc.

The inclusion of Clause 23 hinders the ability to achieve such coherence as it views the grant of PBR as being independent from all other regulations. In certain cases it may be important to refuse to grant PBR over a variety, particularly where national interests are at stake. Such situations include not granting PBR on varieties that are injurious to public health, environment etc or where the application does not disclose the origin of the genetic material.

There is a huge difference between “plant breeder right  shall be INDEPENDENT OF any measure taken by the Republic to regulate within Ghana the production, certification and marketing…” and “plant breeder right shall be SUBJECT TO 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 language must be amended to: plant breeder right shall be SUBJECT TO 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.

6. Any PVP law in  Ghana must protect Ghana from biopiracy.  We recommend language such that: any entity or individual who provides germplasm resources to any foreign entity, organisation or individual in cooperation to conduct research, shall make an application and submit a national benefit-sharing plan.

Why do our elected representatives ignore these points, at least according to the Hon George Loh.  Why do our MPs reject these suggestions that would truly protect Ghana’s agriculture and make our lives more sustainable and our agriculture more profitable for all Ghanaians.

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

​Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Communications Directorate, FSG

Contact: Tel: +233 249867238 / +233 207973808
E-mail : info@foodsovereigntyghana.org
Website: http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FoodSovereignGH
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoodSovereigntyGhana

Cc:
The Rt. Hon. Speaker Edward Doe Adjaho,
The Clerk of Parliament , Mr. Emmanuel K Anyimadu.
Hon. George Loh, MP for North Dayi Constituency, Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Select-Committee on Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs
Friendly organisations and individuals
Media Houses

Radio XYZ

March 22, 2016
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Audio – FSG Interview with Radio XYZ on the need for “further consultations” on the Plant Breeders’ Bill

Audio – Interview with Mr. Edwin Baffour Andoh of the Communications Directorate of FSG in an interview with Host, Kweku Vander-Pallen on XYZ 93.1fm in the morning of Wednesday, 16th March 2016. Also in the interview is Honourable George Loh, Vice-Chairperson of the Parliamentary Select-Committee on Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs.

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March 15, 2016
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Parliament Must Respect Their Own Word On the Plant Breeders’ Bill.

Copied also to the Media and the Clerk of the House: clerk@parliament.gh

Parliament2016 Of Ghana
Food Sovereignty Ghana is stunned to learn that the Plant Breeders’ Bill is returning to the floor of Parliament without the promised consultation with stake-holders as ordered by the Speaker of the House. To this end, we are in full support of the Press Conference organised by CSOs/FBOs on March 1, 2016 calling for “The Protection of Farmers’ Rights and Food Sovereignty in Ghana” See:http://peasantfarmersghana.com/index.php/2016/03/01/the-protection-of-farmers-rights-and-food-sovereignty-in-ghana/

We take this opportunity to remind the Speaker 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”, he said to Hon. Alban Bagbin, Majority Leader and then Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. This call for “further consultation” was key to the unprecedented suspension of a Bill.  “This is because it is important to inform the people of Ghana.” http://www.parliament.gh/publications/30/906)

The Plant Breeders’ Bill and the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol are two versions of the same Bill.  The Plant Breeders’ Bill is a national law; the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol is the same law in the form of an international treaty.

So far there has been no consultation and no attempt to inform apart from some propaganda efforts by the GMO 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.  These include the following, all of them critical participants in any agricultural endeavour in Ghana:

·The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG)

·Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development

·General Agricultural Workers Union

·Catholic Bishops Conference

·Ghana Muslims Mission

·National House of Chiefs

·Christian Council of Ghana

·Apex Farmers Network of Ghana

·Food Span

·Ghana Trade and Livelihoods Coalition

The press conference organised by the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) in collaboration with these other groups is a clear indication that none of these critically important Ghanaian organisations have been consulted.

As petitioners, Food Sovereignty Ghana has legitimate expectation of being consulted.  To date we have not been 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 Organization (FAO) estimates that about 75% 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.

The Plant Breeders’ Bill 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 WTO.  Ghana has full flexibility under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to develop an effective “sui generis” system for plant variety protection, to develop a unique system that suits its needs.

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.

The Constitution of the Fourth Republic of Ghana does not mandate the Parliament of Ghana to surrender any aspect of our sovereignty to foreign entities.  Parliament has no authority to cede national sovereignty under the Constitution. 

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.

To be clear:

We would like to see in any future Bill, a clear statement of farmers’ rights and the absence of any form of criminalization of farmers such as what we saw in Clause 58 of the rejected Bill.

In the Report of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Plant Breeders’ Bill, November, 2013, we witness the conspicuous absence of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) among the documents referenced. This is an unconscionable omission. Ghana is a signatory to this treaty. It is the treaty that protects and supports farmers’ rights. 


As a member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGRFA) we expect Ghana to take steps to realise farmers’ rights to use, sell, save and exchange farm-saved seeds, to protect their traditional knowledge and to allow their participation in national decision-making. The Bill must preserve Ghana’s sovereign independence and must protect the DNA of Ghana’s traditional seeds from bio piracy.

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 cooperation 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. 

Food Sovereignty Ghana heartily endorses the Press Statement of The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana.  We agree with their list of the true concerns of Ghana’s farmers.  The Plant Breeders’ Bill and the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol will severely damage Ghana’s farmers’ livelihoods and our ability to feed ourselves sustainably and protect our country against the effects of climate change.  Both the Plant Breeders’ Bill and the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol give away Ghana’s sovereignty.  If they are passed, it will be necessary to challenge both before the Supreme Court.

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 stake-holders that we know of! And that this is 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.

What is our Parliament trying to do, Mr. Speaker?

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

​Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Communications Directorate, FSG

Contact: Tel: +233 249867238 / +233 207973808
E-mail : info@foodsovereigntyghana.org
Website: http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FoodSovereignGH
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoodSovereigntyGhana

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March 2, 2016
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The Protection of Farmers’ Rights and Food Sovereignty in Ghana

PRESS STATEMENT BY THE CSOs AND FARMERS’ PLATFORM ON THE PROTECTION OF FARMERS RIGHTS AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY OF GHANA
Read by Dede Bedu-Addo for the National President of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG)

Mr. Chairman, Colleague Farmers, Faith-Based Organizations, Representatives of Traditional Authorities, Civil Society Organizations, Friends in the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen; Good morning and welcome to this important Press Conference which seeks to fight for the rights of our farmers to own their own seeds, and the Food Sovereignty of Ghana.

Mr. Chairman, Seeds are a source of life and form the basis of crop farming. The genetic diversity of crops is vital for future food security and the ability of farming systems to adapt to climate change. For this reason, the Ministries of Justice and Agriculture tabled the Plant Breeders Bill in Parliament with the purpose of enhancing the protection of Plant Breeders Rights.

While appreciating the good initiatives of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) to develop the seed industry and enhance food security, many Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) including Farmers, Traditional Authorities, Faith-Based Organizations and individuals have expressed concern about possible, adverse effects of the bill on farmers and food sovereignty in Ghana. The group are concerned about the fact that the bill, as it was presented, sought to promote breeders’ rights over and above farmers’ rights. We called on Parliament to revise the bill to reverse this position and to recognize farmers’ rights in the new bill, which they did.

Mr. Chairman, we wish to congratulate the Speaker of Parliament for responding to this call by referring the bill to the Legal and Parliamentary Select Committee for proper consultation and possible review of the bill to reflect the concerns of farmers.
We also wish to recognize the positive response to our call to establish a Biosafety Authority which we are happy to note is now in place.

However, we are yet to see the proper function of this authority and are also yet to meet the CSO representative.
We would also like to urge the Legal and Parliamentary Committee to conduct adequate consultations to ensure that the concerns of farmers and the general public are addressed before drawing their discussions on the bill to a close.

The ARIPO PROTOCOL
Mr. Chairman, in July 2015, our attention was drawn to the fact that although Parliament had not given due consideration to the Ghana Plant Breeders’ Bill yet, Ghana was one of the first African countries to sign the ARIPO Protocol which was adopted in Arusha, Tanzania by African States. The ARIPO Protocol is a harmonised, regional legal framework for the protection of plant breeders’ rights—the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (the ‘Arusha PVP Protocol’).

This protocol is in conformity with the Union for the Protection of new Varieties (UPOV) 1991 Convention which aims exclusively at protecting plant breeders’ rights and prohibiting the exchange and selling of seeds derived from protected varieties. We are, however, encouraged that although Ghana signed onto the ARIPO Protocol with little consultation with farmers and Civil Society in Ghana, Parliament still has the power not to ratify the Protocol. Should Parliament ratify this Protocol, the national legislation on seed rights will have to conform to the UPOV 1991 Convention which is about promoting breeders rights over and above farmers’ rights, as well as promoting formal cross-border seed trade over farmers’ informal seed exchange systems.

It is on this note that we, as concerned Farmers and CSOs, Faith-Based Organizations and Tradition Authorities in Ghana wish to explain to Ghanaians why we think Parliament should not ratify the ARIPO Protocol.

ARIPO Protocol is an Inflexible Regime. 
Colleague farmers, the ARIPO Protocol is modeled on the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of 1991 (UPOV 1991) which is a rigid and an inflexible regime for plant variety protection (PVP). Ghana has full flexibility under the World Trade Organization (WTO) to develop an effective “sui generis” system for plant variety protection, i.e. to develop a unique system that suits its needs. In view of this, it is truly unfortunate and even irrational that instead of designing a PVP regime that reflects the agricultural framework and realities of Ghana as other countries have done (e.g. India, Thailand, Ethiopia), Ghana is choosing to adopt and be bound by UPOV 1991 without any concrete evidence or impact assessment of the necessity and impact of adopting such a regime.

As a member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGRFA), we expect Ghana to take steps to realize farmers’ rights to use, sell, save and exchange farm-saved seeds, to protect their traditional knowledge and to allow their participation in national decision-making.

ARIPO Protocol will infringe on Ghana’s Sovereignty
Mr. Chairman, it is possible to have an effective law on plant variety protection without compromising Ghana’s international obligations and farmers’ rights. Today, several countries have used innovative approaches in their PVP legislation that balances the interests of the breeding industry and farmers’ interests. India is an example of these countries. The African Model Law for the Protection of the Rights of Communities, Farmers and Breeders that was discussed and endorsed at the African Union, also contains innovative approaches for consideration.

Erosion of Crop Genetic Diversity
Claims that the Bill will lead to the development of varieties that are suitable for the needs of Ghana and that it is important for food security is erroneous.
In reality, the Bill only incentivizes “uniform” varieties. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that about 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost due to the proliferation of commercial, uniform varieties replacing native land races. The erosion of crop genetic diversity poses a serious threat to food supplies as it reduces resistance to pests, diseases and changing weather patterns. Genetic diversity within crops is also decreasing.

Additionally, it is erroneous to suggest as the Memorandum does that the Bill will develop varieties that are suitable for the needs of Ghana. PVP systems tend to incentivize and orientate development of new varieties where a commercial market exists and where significant profits can be made. It is definitely not the solution to addressing the nutritional and food security needs of Ghana.

False Promises
The argument in the Memo that the Bill will “help farmers break out of their cycle of subsistence farming” is also flawed. The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has noted, in a recent report that “This shift has led to grant temporary monopoly privileges to plant breeders through the tools of intellectual property, as a means to encourage research and innovation in plant breeding. In this process, however, the poorest farmers may become increasingly dependent on expensive inputs, creating the risk of indebtedness in the face of unstable incomes. The farmers’ seed systems may be put in jeopardy, although most farmers in developing countries still rely on such systems, which, for them, are a source of economic independence and resilience in the face of threats such as pests, diseases or climate change.”

Misappropriation of Ghana’s Genetic Resources
The Bill also contains a “presumption” that a plant breeder is considered to be entitled to intellectual property protection in the absence of proof to the contrary.

It is important to note that Ghana is a member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the Convention on Biological Diversity, and both of these instruments champion fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources. Including a disclosure of origin provision in the Bill, is critical as it is widely recognized as an important tool to safeguard against biopiracy. Several countries have included such a provision in their PVP legislation and there is no reason why Ghana should not do the same.

Adverse effects on Public Interest
The Bill also lacks provisions that will ensure that intellectual property protection will not be granted to varieties that adversely affect public interests.

Lack of Credibility
We recommend that Parliament should refrain from ratifying the ARIPO Protocol. We are of the view that, in its current form, the Protocol lacks credibility and legitimacy and does not benefit Ghana. We propose the adoption of a ‘sui generis’ system which will allow extensive consultations involving all stakeholders, including the farming communities and Civil Society to develop a balanced and equitable legislation.

Our major Concerns
As farmers We wish to bring to the fore our major concerns as farmers, that we anticipate will be addressed in a revised legislation on seeds. These include:
• A new Seed Act that will increase funding to public breeders/researchers
• Promote open pollinated varieties
• Promote Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB)
• Enshrine the inherent rights of farmers to save, reuse, select, exchange and sell seeds
• Reorient agricultural policies towards food sovereignty – healthy, ecological biodiversity, sustainable and democratically controlled food systems
• Protect local seed farmers from monopolies that prevent them from having choices
• Promote policies that address basic problems farmers face, such as: rural infrastructure, feeder roads, access to credit for women, address land grabbing issues, improve irrigation and water management, empower local seed breeders, access to extension services, market access and storage.
• Put efforts in passing bills that are beneficial to farmers such as the Cattle Ranching Law to regulate the activities of herdsmen, to prevent conflict with crop farmers

Conclusion
In conclusion, we, the undersigned, on behalf of Rural, Small Holder Farmers, Faith-Based Organisations, Traditional Authorities and Civil Society Organisations wish to state categorically that we are vehemently opposed to the Current Plant Breeders Bill and the ARIPO Protocol.

We, however, remain committed to working with MOFA, The Ministry of Justice and Attorney General, Parliament and all other relevant institutions in Ghana to ensure that farmers, as breeders and users, remain at the center of localized food production systems and continue to exercise their rights to freely save, use, exchange, replant, improve, distribute and sell all the seeds in their seed systems.

Thank you.
Signatories
1. The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG)
2. Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development
3. General Agricultural Workers Union
4. Catholic Bishops Conference
5. Ghana Muslims Mission
6. National House of Chiefs
7. Christian Council of Ghana
8. Apex Farmers Network of Ghana
9. Food span
10. Ghana Trade and Livelihoods Coalition

Source: The Protection of Farmers’ Rights and Food Sovereignty in Ghana | PFAG http://peasantfarmersghana.com/index.php/2016/03/01/the-protection-of-farmers-rights-and-food-sovereignty-in-ghana/?platform=hootsuite

February 17, 2016
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Will CPP Continue To Support FSG?

Will CPP Continue To Support FSG?

Posted by Food Sovereignty Ghana on Friday, 12 February 2016

The exit of Samia Yaba Nkrumah form the leadership of the Conventions Peoples Party (CPP) may have some implications for the causes to which she anchored the fortunes of the once vibrant party.

As chairman of the party, Samia became one of the leading advocates of Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) which vigorously campaigned against the introduction of Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs).

Her identification with the struggle against GMOs was so strong that it became an issue in the Central Committee of the party with some leading members distancing themselves from the campaign.

Indeed, the immediate Past Presidential Candidate of the party, Dr. Abu Sakara said firmly that the Central Committee had not endorsed the anti-GMO position of Samia Nkrumah.

Samia’s position was very simple.

She argued that the introduction of GMOs could have some unforeseen dangerous consequences’ for Ghana and all countries which embrace them…. Read more: – http://m.peacefmonline.com/…/pol…/politics/201602/269883.php

Samia Nkrumah Addressing Press Conference  At the International Press Centre, Accra,

Samia Nkrumah Addressing Press Conference At the International Press Centre, Accra,

ORGANIC CONCERT2

December 4, 2015
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Food Sovereignty Ghana Salutes Ghana’s Farmers!!

12274624_1022069421149213_5844337949330118653_nFood Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) has called on the the authorities to focus more on agroecology rather than biotechnology and patented GM foods with all the associated health, environmental, and socio-economic hazards.

In a statement hailing Ghanaian farmers on Farmers’ Day, FSG, a grass-roots movement of Ghanaians, home and abroad, dedicated to the promotion of food sovereignty in Ghana, called on policy-makers to take urgent steps to ensure the safety and health of Ghanaian farmers in the light of the dangers posed by pesticides that are probably carcinogenic.

FSG also reiterates its call for an indefinite moratorium on the use of GMOs in agriculture, as experts increasingly point to agroecology as the key to the challenges facing our agriculture today: climate change, growing populations to feed, etc..

Below is the full statement:
Food Sovereignty Ghana Salutes Ghana’s Farmers!!

Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) wishes to congratulate all farmers and agricultural workers on the occasion of the National Farmer’s Day.  We wish to highlight and recognize the important role that farmers play in contributing to the growth of our national economy.  Approximately sixty percent of the country’s labour force is gainfully employed in agriculture to sustain their livelihood.  It is a fact that farmers provide twenty percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP) and thus remain a key stakeholder of any development agenda.

FSG wishes to recognize the invaluable contribution to food security and economic development made by many farmers whom in the greatest of logistical challenges persevere to provide much needed local food security.  This year’s National Farmer’s Day celebrations come at a time when Ghana is at a key crossroads regarding the adoption of an agricultural system based on the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Despite a growing trend across the developing world where countries are either completely banning GM crops or imposing strict mandatory labelling regimes in the interest of consumer rights and safety, Ghana is rather proceeding with the adoption of this controversial and novel technology with little transparency or the involvement of the key stakeholders, being farmers, consumers and civil society organizations.  FSG is highly concerned about the speed at which local policy makers in the agricultural sector are proceeding to adopt GM agriculture with its heavy dependency on expensive imported chemicals, its reliance on large energy inputs and its negative impact on the ecological integrity of the environment.

The latest United Nations Report on Sustainable Development cites a need to make a dynamic shift away from large commercial based agriculture to one of more agroecological friendly practices which are in the best interests of a sustainable and viable planet.

FSG finds it vindicating that on Wednesday December 2, 2015 a special double page (40,41) centre-spread titled “ “Danger on Farms – Health Dilemma of pesticide use in modern agriculture” written by Gabriel Ahiabor was featured in Ghana’s widest circulated print medium, the Daily Graphic newspaper.  It drew the attention of the public to the lack of proper education and regulation on the use of pesticides and herbicides among rural farmers.  FSG further calls upon policy makers in the agricultural sector to draw on the negative experiences of farmers in India, Brazil, Argentina and other countries regarding the growth of GM crops to consider the long term implications of handing over ownership of our seed stock into the hands of profit-oriented corporate entities who will then be in a position to charge astronomical prices for seeds for which they will essentially become monopoly suppliers.  It is indeed a key issue of great national security dimensions if such a significant percentage of the population’s livelihood would be determined by foreign owned corporations.

We believe that Ghanaians are entitled to the basic right to know what is in the food we are eating, how that food is produced, its implications on our health, the environment, and socio-economic progress!

In the interest of aligning with the foreign agricultural policies of countries such as the USA, the signing of this controversial protocol in Arusha Tanzania, which ironically took place on the 55th anniversary of our Republic on July 1st 2015 remains largely unknown to most Ghanaians.  There is an obvious and calculated agenda by the government to keep its agenda in the dark without the involvement of the very populace that will consume such proposed GM foods.  FSG is currently seeking to get as many Ghanaians aware of the controversial Arusha Plant Variety Protocol and the need to persuade the legislature against the ratification of such a bill which,like the infamous Plant Breeders’ Bill, would undermine our national interest.  The signing of the protocol on behalf of the Ghanaian people was done by Ghanaian delegates from our Attorney Generals office & Ministry of Justice despite the huge national controversy surrounding a similar bill: the Plant Breeders’ Bill. FSG is not amused by the secrecy surrounding this protocol and call for accountability and transparency. We note with dismay that this is  still unknown to the general populace as it was not reported in the local media.

FSG is currently engaged in the processes of filing an appeal against a ruling by the Humans Right court on Thursday, 29th October, 2015, dismissing an application brought forward by FSG as lead plaintiff, for an interlocutory injunction on the commercialization and release of GM cowpeas and rice.   Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) strongly disagrees.

It is the contention of FSG that Modern Biotechnology is a potent and novel technology that presents unique risks. This means that whatever the perceived benefits seen in advances in biotechnology, they must be developed and used with adequate safety measures for the environment and human health. This is why the international conventions such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) regulating its safe use need to be respected, especially as most of these laws have been domesticated in Ghanaian law.

We take this opportunity to reiterate our call for an indefinite moratorium on the use of GMOs in agriculture, as experts increasingly point to agroecology as the key to the challenges facing our agriculture today: climate change, growing populations to feed, etc..

There is a sharply divided opinion in the scientific community, even among molecular biologists, that genetically engineered crops are “safe”. It is in light of all these precautions that FSG calls on all farmers, responsible parents, spiritual leaders, community elders and leaders of political parties to join the people of Ghana who once educated on the issues are overwhelmingly against the agenda to change the agricultural systems that have been used sustainably for millennia by our forebears.  Despite the lack of transparency and engagement by regulators FSG is encouraged by the support of organizations like the Christian Council of Ghana, the Office of the National Chief Imam, The Ghana Muslim Mission, The Religious Bodies Network Against Climate Change (RELBONET), National Catholic Bishops Conference, The Convention People’s Party, the Vegetarian Association of Ghana, The Great Consolidated People’s Party, the Seventh Day Adventist Church among many others.

And together, we stand firmly behind the farmers of Ghana!

Happy Farmers’ Day!
For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

​Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Communications Directorate, FSG

Contact: Tel: +233 249867238 / +233 207973808
E-mail : info@foodsovereigntyghana.org
Website: http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FoodSovereignGH
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoodSovereigntyGhana

Mo Ibrahim

November 19, 2015
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There should be transparency – Mo Ibrahim on GMO