Food Sovereignty Ghana

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

Dr. Owusu Afiriyie Akoto, Minister-Designate for Food And Agriculture,

January 14, 2017
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Is The Minister-Designate For Agriculture Is A GMO Shill?

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“…Ghana imports 150 thousand metric tons of poultry products every year and most of that are coming from America, Brazil and Europe. Where do you think those chickens are fed from? They are fed from genetically modified grains. So, we are eating genetically modified food. Has anybody died? Genetically modified food is eaten in America and Ghana and everywhere through feeding grains to chickens and [other poultry produce] and we [Ghanaians] are eating it [as well]. Are we all dead? All the Americans would be dead by now…”

- Dr. Owusu Afiriyie Akoto, Minister-Designate for Food And Agriculture, on TV: New Day – Discuss the Fight Against Genetically Modified Foods – 31/1/2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gZgr7FAli8

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December 13, 2016
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FSG Congratulates President-Elect Nana Akufo-Addo

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Food Sovereignty Ghana congratulates Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as President-Elect in the just-ended Presidential election of the Fourth Republic of Ghana. We also congratulate His Excellency, President John Mahama for gracefully conceding defeat and once more, ensuring that Ghana’s transition in a change of government has been as peaceful as it ought to be, despite a bitter and acrimonious campaign. We thank and congratulate all Ghanaians, especially all those who took the extra needed steps to see that the right things are done, the Electoral Commission, the security agencies, the media, the faith-based and civil society organisations.

As we congratulate Nana for his well-deserved victory in the just ended elections, we take this opportunity to cry out and call on him, as a matter of high priority, to consider the systematic application of agroecology and sustainable agriculture as a crucial national challenge. We urgently need to tackle this in the face of climate change and our survival needs. We need to tackle this for the sake of ensuring the sanctity of human health, environment, for our own sake and for the sake of future generations. We need to tackle this in order to reverse the dwindling incomes of small household farmers, the backbones of Ghana’s agriculture, who are almost half of the entire population of Ghana.

To this end, we call on you to uphold their rights as enshrined in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), of which Ghana is a signatory. In particular, the farmers’ right to use, sell, save and exchange farm-saved seeds, is currently under a serious threat by the Plant Breeders’ Bill, 2103, as well as the Arusha Plant Protection Protocol, which also awaits ratification by Parliament. The Arusha PVP is so bad that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food recently raised concern in an open letter addressed to the Member States of the African Regional Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, dated 24 November 2016.

It is about time Ghana sought Ghanaian solutions to Ghanaian problems rather than allowing foreign giant agricultural and chemical corporations to impose their solutions to their advantage for profit maximisation, and at the expense of poor Ghanaian farmers. A crucial issue we call on Nana and the Ghanaian public to keep a keen eye on is the fact of the illegitimacy of the bill itself. This was beautifully highlighted in the petition presented by more than 50 international CSOs and NGOs. A reading of that particular petition shows clearly that the accompanying Memorandum to the Plant Breeders’ Bill sent to Parliament by the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, was at best, based on false premises, or at worst, designed to mislead the House in favour of the Bill. It raises more questions than answers. See: Ghana’s Plant Breeders Bill Lacks Legitimacy! It Must Be Revised!

In the said Memorandum accompanying the Bill, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Mrs. Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, dated 28th May, 2013 states:

“The Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) which resulted from the negotiations of the Uruguay Round requires contracting parties to protect varieties either by patent or by an effective sui generis system of protection or by a hybrid of these two systems which is the plant breeders rights system.”

Here is the catch, notice that without any explanation or justification for such a strange decision to take Ghana to UPOV, she goes further to indicate:

“Clause 1 of the Bill defines the scope of application of the Bill. Ghana has opted to apply the requirement for compliance with the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of December 2, 1961 and subsequently revised on November 10th, 1972, on 23rd October, 1978 and on 19th March, 1991.” See: Memorandum to the Plant Breeders’ Bill 2013 Publications | Parliament of Ghana.

The fundamental question that needs to be answered in the interest of accountability and national security, is, if according to WTO rules, Ghana has the right to develop its own unique system of plant breeders rights protection that is suitable to our developmental needs, what informed or “provoked” such a decision clearly in obvious opposition to our national interests, to opt to “apply the requirement for compliance with the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of December 2, 1961″, in the first place? Why not opt for the African Union model, which includes language that compels 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?

Considering the numerous objections from experts all over the world, that UPOV benefits the big multinational seed corporations, and that a developing country like Ghana stands to lose by its adoption; the ubiquitous problem of corruption and the track records of the corporate lobby behind the UPOV bill, we strongly smell a rat. We do not only demand its withdrawal from Parliament, and a replacement with a “sui generis” plant variety protection system, but also, investigations into why we came so close as a people to be sold out to foreign seed companies, and draw the appropriate lessons. For the same reasons, we further call for the total rejection of the Arusha New Plants Protection Protocol, currently pending Parliamentary ratification, as just another way of smuggling into our laws, the same UPOV convention without public scrutiny.

It is against this background that those of us who saw just how close Ghana came to a new form of colonialism led by rich multinational corporations through the control of our seeds are happy to welcome change! We heave a huge sigh of relief, as we contemplate our prospects with the new administration. The Plant Breeders’ Bill was postponed recently. Majority Leader, Hon. Alban Bagbin assured Parliament that “it will be brought to the house next year”. It is our hope that it will be completely withdrawn and replaced with a “sui generis” plant breeders’ and farmers’ rights protection bill. Ghanaians voted for change. Change has come. It is time to change the obnoxious UPOV-compliant Plant Breeders’ Bill.

Our congratulatory message would be incomplete, if we do not end with an appeal to your incoming administration to place an indefinite moratorium on the cultivation and sale of genetically modified foods in Ghana until the science of GM foods and human health, as well as environmental impact, has been thoroughly studied and cleared as safe by independent science rather than corporate-driven, profit-oriented scientists and regulators, ridden to the core with conflicts-of-interest. We are happy for change also because President Mahama failed to heed to our numerous calls.

Naturally, we are more than eager to thank Nana for listening to us. It is our fervent hope that we may not in the future find ourselves tweeting again, “We told you so”!

We are most pleased to hear Nana declare he would not let Ghanaians down. At a time like this, it is a big pleasure to congratulate Nana Addo, not only for winning the elections, but also for the hope and happiness this victory has generated all over the country. We equally congratulate President Mahama for the grace and peace he has bestowed on all Ghanaians for his dignified and organized exit from power.

Congratulations, Nana Akufo-Addo, President-Elect of the Republic of Ghana!

God bless our homeland Ghana!

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour

Communications Directorate, FSG
Contact FSG Communications:
Tel: +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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December 12, 2016
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@JDMahama We told you so!

"Genetically modified foods, a war you may not be aware of"

November 29, 2016
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Genetically modified foods, a war you may not be aware of

Part Two:

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Embrace biotech to boost agric production" — Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, Director of Biotechnology and Stewardship for Sustainable Agriculture in West Africa (BBSSA), speaking at a seed seminar in Kumasi. Source: - Graphic Online - | 30 July 2016: https://t.co/Ia9WgyQKWA

August 17, 2016
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Why Is Prof. Alhassan Misleading Ghanaians About GMOs?

Food Sovereignty Ghana has been taken aback by extremely bizarre claims made recently by Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, the Director of Biotechnology and Stewardship for Sustainable Agriculture in West Africa (BSSA), at a seminar on “improved seeds” jointly organised by the National Seed Trade Association of Ghana (NASTAG) and the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA).

Embrace biotech to boost agric production" — Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, Director of Biotechnology and Stewardship for Sustainable Agriculture in West Africa (BBSSA), speaking at a seed seminar in Kumasi. Source: - Graphic Online - | 30 July 2016: https://t.co/Ia9WgyQKWA

Embrace biotech to boost agric production” — Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, Director of Biotechnology and Stewardship for Sustainable Agriculture in West Africa (BBSSA), speaking at a seed seminar in Kumasi. Source: – Graphic Online – | 30 July 2016: https://t.co/Ia9WgyQKWA

publication in the Daily Graphic of Saturday, 30th July, 2016, cites Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, calling “on Ghanaians to embrace the use of biotechnology in agriculture production to ensure increased crop yields to secure the country’s food basket”.

It is clear to us that Prof. Alhassan is aware himself that what he is saying here is not true. We therefore wonder why he is straining himself beyond the limits of the facts available, to peddle falsehoods about GMOs and make the misinformed and unfounded claim that “many anti-Genetically Modified Food (GMO) advocates were ignorant about its benefits, adding that the need had come for the country to approve improved means of crop production to meet its rising demand and also reduce the pressure on limited arable lands.”.

On the issue of GMOs “ensure increased crop yields to secure the country’s food basket”, this very same Prof. Alhassan had earlier conceded to truth and logic. Here is the relevant part of an email he sent to FSG admitting exactly that:

“GM crops currently on the market have not been genetically engineered for direct yield increase so your sources may be right here. What the crops have been genetically engineered to do is for tolerance to a stressor. When this stressor bothering the crop is removed, the crop will exhibit its full genetic potential to increase yield when agro-inputs are provided. Now before the anti-stressor (insect, drought, fungus, virus) is put in, the plant is bred for high yields through conventional means…” (From: “Walter S. Alhassan” <x>, Date: Sun, 3 Nov 2013 21:16:10)

This was contained in an email in response to an article he shared with FSG. By his own admission, “GM crops currently on the market have not been genetically engineered for direct yield increase”, so how does he arrive at the conclusion that “the use of biotechnology in agriculture production” ensures “increased crop yields”?

We find it strange that the so-called seminar was on the theme, “Celebrating 20 years of Successful Commercial Production of Biotech Crops: Opportunities for the Seed Sector”. We strongly believe that a more appropriate theme would have been “Celebrating 20 years of Lies and imposition of Biotech Crops: Opportunities for the greedy corporate sponsors like Monsanto”!

We have debated Prof. Alhassan several times, on radio, on TV, and by emails. He is fully aware of the level of informed responses he has received from FSG. He has even on record conceded directly or indirectly, to the veracity of our criticisms of some of the claims he is making here. A clear example is an excerpt of our reaction to an earlier message he had sent to us. We shall leave it to our readers to judge for themselves the “level” of our “ignorance” being claimed by Professor Alhassan:

“Dear Prof Alhassan…, Thank you for sharing information from the EU Farmers Concern and the Catholic Ecology magazine with us at Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG). We have noted their contents and would like to refer you to our website for further clarification of our organisation’s viewpoints on the issues they raise.

However, as a scientist, you may also be interested in the studies reviewed by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which, based on the evidence, provide an informed perspective on GMOs. We refer you to the links below. How GMOs Unleashed a Pesticide Gusher and Do GMO Crops Really Have Higher Yields?

Nearly two decades after their mid-’90s debut in US farm fields, GMO seeds are looking less and less promising. Do the industry’s products ramp up crop yields? The Union of Concerned Scientists looked at that question in detail for a 2009study. Short answer is: marginally, if at all. Do they lead to reduced pesticide use? No; in fact the opposite. A new paper by University of Wisconsin researchers suggests GMOs do not generate higher crop yields. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds have given rise to an upsurge of herbicide-resistant superweeds and a torrent of herbicides, while insects are showing resistance to its pesticide-containing Bt crops and causing farmers to boost insecticide use.

What about wonder crops that would be genetically engineered to withstand drought or require less nitrogen fertilizer? So far, they haven’t panned out—and there’s little evidence they ever will.

There is a global consensus of agri development experts and scientists as expressed by the 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a three-year project convened by the World Bank and the United Nations and completed in 2008 to assess what forms of agriculture would best meet the world’s needs in a time of rapid climate change. The IAASTD took such a skeptical view of deregulated biotech as a panacea for the globe’s food challenges that Croplife America, the industry’s main industry lobbying group, saw fit to denounce it…”

Prof. Alhassan also claimed that “the introduction of biotechnology would automatically help reduce the use of agro inputs such as residuals and fertilisers which research had shown were key cancer-causing agents in humans”. This would have been laughable if it were not cancer we are talking about here. The Bt cotton currently being developed in Ghana, is also “Roundup ready”, which means it has been developed to be resistant to Monsanto’s profitable herbicide, “Roundup”, which has been famously singled out as “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization (WHO)!

It is about time Ghanaians called out Professor Alhassan to come clean and explain why he must not be considered a conduit of the pro-GM lobby, hired to promote GMOs in Ghana, without regard to science and facts, and to attack conscientious and legitimate anti-GMO groups like FSG.

We hereby take this opportunity to reiterate the call demanding an indefinite moratorium on or ban on all GM Foods In Ghana, until the long-term health impacts of GM food consumption in the light of uncertainties raised by animal feeding studies are well-studied and known.

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

​Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Communications Directorate, FSG

Contact FSG Communications: Tel: +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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May 24, 2016
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Ghanaians March Against Monsanto in ACCRA

March Against Monsanto ACCRA, Sat, May 21, 2016

March Against Monsanto ACCRA, Sat, May 21, 2016

Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) joined millions of people worldwide across 6 continents, 56 countries and 452 cities including 16 cities in Africa in the annual march against Monsanto. This year’s march was organized with the support of the Peasant Farmers Association, The Convention People’s Party (CPP), The Rastafarai Council of Ghana, the Insight newspaper, the Vegetarian Association of Ghana, the African Youth Foundation and the Kwame Nkrumah Youth Group.

In observance of the annual ban on drumming and noise making imposed by the Ga Traditional Council, the March in Accra was tapered down with hundreds of participants wielding placards and marching silently through some of the principal streets of Accra. Food Sovereignty Ghana a grassroots based organisation dedicated to social justice has been championing the cause of stakeholder engagement and education around the issue of biotechnology in our agricultural and food production systems for over three years. A clear and consistent message has been sent to leadership and policy makers that the imposition of genetically modified organisms (GMO) on Ghanaians is absolutely unacceptable and not in the interest of Ghana’s sustainable future.

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By around 7.00 am on Saturday morning the first group of supporters had converged at the premises of TV3 and by 8.30 a respectable number of anti GMO campaigners had gathered. By 9.30 am the March began in the company of a police escort. Marchers proceeded down the road to the car park of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) where the FSG Communication Director was interviewed by the state broadcaster before continuing on the Ring road, turning left after the Unibank Head office to climb the hill to Mallam Atta market. The procession continued onto the Kanda Highway eventually ending up at Kawukudi Park in Nima. It was very interesting to see the response of the public as most of them were unaware of anything like GMO despite the fact that legislators in 2011 passed a Bio Safety Act into law. There is a clear need for mass education and public engagement which is an obligation Ghana is bound by under the provisions of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

The marchers who came from across all walks of life included peasant farmers, parents, teachers, children, members of the Rastafarai Community, the Vegetarian Association of Ghana was very encouraging, reflective of the fact that a large section of Ghanaians are very concerned about the imposition of GMO in our agriculture.

Joining the March in Accra among other celebrities and local musicians were the former Chairperson of The Convention Peoples Party (CPP), Madam Samia Nkrumah, Party, Nene Ahuma Ocansey aka Daddy Bosco of the Rastafarai Council of Ghana, Sister Jessica of MUSIGHA, Ras Kuuku, Ras Revolution, Gold Teeth, members of the Free West Papua Campaign, and others. Also visible were several riders on horse back, branded with CPP colours.

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Research studies have shown that Monsanto’s genetically-modified foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer, tumours, infertility and birth defects. Round up which is a glyphosate based chemical pesticide is heavily imported into the country and its negative effects on human health and the environment are of great concern.

FSG informed the gathered crowd that Burkina Faso who is a neighbour to Ghana had recently announced plans to abandon its five year old GM cotton agenda due to lower yields and poorer quality of fibre. What is then informing our policy makers in Ghana to proceed with field trials in the north when our neighbour has conclusive evidence against such a decision?

The March was very well attended and received coverage from a cross section of local as well as international media including the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). As the procession manoeuvred through the streets it was clear there was unanimous consensus against GMO by pedestrians, taxi drivers, market women and the general public who cheered on the marchers as they wielded their colourful and insightful placards. Food Sovereignty Ghana maintains that the proposed Plant Breeders’ Bill which will soon be on the floor of Parliament requires more stakeholder consultation in the interests of the Ghanaian farmer and consumer before it is passed into law. Parliamentarians who are supposed to represent the interest of their constituents all over the nation must actively do so and FSG’s call for the publication of a report on the said consultations that have allegedly taken place since November 2014 should be heeded.

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

#MAM Cornflakes 12764802_950507861706399_1730564124435939022_o

May 16, 2016
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Accra to march against Monsanto this Saturday…

Saturday, May 21st, 2016. ‪#‎MarchAgainstMonsanto‬ - Accra, Assembling in front of TV3 at 7.30am

Saturday, May 21st, 2016. ‪#‎MarchAgainstMonsanto‬ – Accra, Assembling in front of TV3 at 7.30am

 

This year’s international March Against Monsanto falls on Saturday, 21st May, 2016.Food Sovereignty Ghana and March Against Monsanto – Accra, have the pleasure to invite you to a silent march through some of the principal streets of Accra to highlight our desire for public awareness and participation in decisions regarding biotechnology in agriculture.We believe that such decisions must not be left in the hands of multi-national corporations and their diplomatic enablers using their GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, and seed monopoly lobby to influence the outcome of government policy.We shall be assembling in front of TV3 at 7.30am.The march is a silent one in respect of the custom and tradition of the Ga State by honouring the ban on drumming and noise making, which is a significant rite observed to usher in the the celebration of the Homowo Festival of the Ga-Dangme.

We shall therefore be marching in silence with placards and banners only.

The route of the march, as notified to the police, remains marching begins from TV3 at 7.30am, then progressing through the main road in front of the GBC, along the Ring Road to link up with Kanda High Street, then through to make a left in front of the new SG Bank (formerly SSB) Head office and up the hill through Kokomlelmle, making a right turn to Mallam Atta Market and on to link up with Kanda High Way to end up at the Kawukudi Park, Nima.

March Against Monsanto, is an international grassroots movement against Monsanto corporation, in protest of the company’s practices of using their affluence to influence the outcome of legislations, regulations, research findings, media narratives, etc. The movement was founded by Tami Canal in response to the failure of California Proposition 37, a ballot initiative which would have required labelling food products made from GMOs. Monsanto was reported to have poured in $7,100,500 to help narrowly defeat California’s Proposition 37.Advocates therefore support mandatory labelling laws for food made from GMOs. We in Ghana however support the call for labelling but since GMOs are yet to be cultivated in Ghana, we go beyond the call for labelling in demanding an indefinite moratorium on or ban on al GM Foods In Ghana!

Since the huge success of the first march, the movement has been growing from strength to strength. Last year saw the march in 48 countries on six continents, from Sweden to Bangladesh, and in over 400 cities involving hundreds of thousands of participants. A larger number of cities and countries are expected this year.Africa has been under-represented in previous years, but that is changing. According to March Against Monsanto Events, 2016, an unprecedented number of seven African countries are marching: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia. In South Africa alone, there are marches in nine cities across the country. In all, sixteen African cities are marching on Saturday. This is the third consecutive March Against Monsanto – Accra, since 2014.
Why do we march in Accra?

This years march comes at a time where Parliament is reopening with the Plant Breeders’ Bill still compliant to the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants UPOV, a rather rigid set of intellectual property rights regime that is not suited to our socio-economic conditions. This UPOV-compliant Plant Breeders’ Bill, aka “Monsanto Law”, is on its agenda. What is at stake is the farmer’s right “to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and other propagating material”.

The bill in Clause 21 (2) puts farmers’ rights at the discretion of the Minister for Agriculture, not rights at all.  The same bill in Clause 23, makes the rights of the plant breeder independent of the laws of Ghana.

“Farmers’ Rights” according to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), of which Ghana is a signatory, include 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”Despite several calls for a report on the almost three-year old “consultations” by respective Parliamentary Select-Committee responsible, we are yet to receive any favourable response. The absence of the report makes the entire process as transparent as mud.The public has an interest to know what petitions were presented and what were in them, and why the Committee in its wisdom is proceeding, in the light of these objections.It is difficult to see how Parliament is going to proceed with the consideration of the Plant Breeders’ Bill without the publication of such a comprehensive report. This shall be in contravention of the call for “further consultation” by the Speaker, “because it is important to inform the people of Ghana”.It is a pleasure to be part of what has become the most powerful statement of the ordinary person in the street against the deep pockets of of giant lobbies, promoting GMOs, facilitating biopiracy, suppressing farmers’ rights, and other mischiefs.

We are marching to protest the continued imposition of GMOs on Ghanaians by our political class, aided and abetted by scientists blinded often by conflicts of interests and inducements from the GM lobby.

We are marching because, at a time where the monumental failure of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso is an open secret, we would like to see scientists like Dr. Emmanuel Chamba, Plant Breeder and Principal Investigator for Bt Cotton research at the CSIR-Savanna Agric. Research Institute (SARI), Nyankpala, Tamale, recant their justification for their embrace of Bt cotton:

“We realised that Burkina Faso, which is our next door neighbour is growing Bt Cotton commercially and as a result of that they are making a lot of progress in their cotton industry. First of all, the farmers are getting very high yields and as a result they are getting good income out of that and apart from that we also realised that Bt Cotton saves farmers a lot of time and energy and also we thought because with the Bt, it is resistant to the major insect pests in cotton production – the Bollworm complex,”

Meanwhile, if anything at all, the spectacular failure of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso should be a good reason why Ghana must be considering other agroecological solutions rather than the the failed technology that impoverishes farmers and enriches the seed corporations.

Burkina Faso abandoned GM Bt cotton in February 2016. The country has begun a complete phaseout of the crop, citing the inferior lint quality of GM cultivars. “Burkina Faso’s cotton association is seeking 48.3 billion CFA francs ($83.91 million) in compensation from U.S. seed company Monsanto after it said genetically modified cotton led to a drop in quality, association members said”.

The failure of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso follows the trail of a series of failures wherever Bt cotton has been used in the past. In India, the results were catastrophic as hundreds of thousands of cotton farmers committed suicide following the false promises and investing heavily by borrowing money. It also failed woefully in South Africa, at the Makhathini Flats, which was supposed to be the show case for the rest of Africa.

We are marching because we do not see why anyone in his or her right senses would still be insisting on Bt cotton for Ghana even at this time of the day!

We are marching to highlight the need to learn the appropriate lessons from the international environment under which the march is taking place this year. The recent leaks of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have added a new sense of urgency and the importance of the march. We take note that the thrust of the agreements is to enhance corporate power through legal mechanisms. The Panama Papers give us some ideas with what they do with the money they steal from us!


What solutions do we advocate?
As this march takes place at a time the Parliament of Ghana is reopening with the Plant Breeders’ Bill at the top of its agenda, we call 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.
We strongly believe that it is about time that our Parliament shifts the discussion on the controversial and immensely dangerous 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. Under this, Ghana has full flexibility to develop an effective “sui generis” system for plant variety protection, i.e. to develop a unique system that suits its needs.
There is no need for Ghana to allow our laws dictated to us from an organisation like UPOV in Geneva.

We call for an indefinite moratorium or complete ban on the cultivation of GM crops in Ghana until the science of GM foods and human health, as well as environmental impact, has been thoroughly studied and cleared as safe by independent science rather than corporate-driven, profit-oriented scientists and regulators, ridden with conflicts-of-interest.

We humbly call on the Mahama administration to orientate government policy on agriculture towards what all the experts are saying: agroecology. The technology currently exists that is developing drought-resistant, pest resistant and high yielding crops through traditional breeding and selection. Marker Assisted Agro-ecological farming is not only inexpensive, and sustainable, it is far more successful than GM technology.

Agroecological techniques are already safely and inexpensively producing crops with increasing yields plus tolerance and resistance to environmental stressors. We should forget GMOs and concentrate on agroecological agriculture. The only reason why our “development partners” are opposed to this is because their multinational corporations shall lose the attempts to monopolize our food through GMO patents. They see our agricultural wealth as raw material to be extracted from Ghana in order to power their economic engine. We need to control and develop our agricultural wealth to power Ghana’s economic engine.

That’s why we invite all to join us as we March Against Monsanto here in Accra.

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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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