Food Sovereignty Ghana calls on Parliament to explain to Ghanaians the rules and ethics of lobbying currently being applied in the country. Hon. Alban Bagbin, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the committee considering the Plant Breeders Bill, stated that MPs take bribes to pass laws through Parliament as reported by the Daily Graphic of Monday March 10, 2014.
We take notice of the report that Mr. Bagbin told a STAR Ghana sponsored workshop at the weekend that “the reality is that MPs are Ghanaians and there is evidence that some MPs take bribes and come to the floor and try to articulate the views of their sponsors.”
It is obvious that where there are no laid down prescribed rules and procedures corruption could set in, and bad laws could be passed in favour of the sponsors, to the detriment of Ghanaians. We are especially alarmed at the attempts by the committee chaired by Mr Babgin, to re-introduce the Plant Breeders Bill to the floor of parliament without any consideration of the petitions sent to parliament by civil society about the Bill, as was directed by the speaker of Parliament, Rt Hon Doe Adjaho. And without any consideration of public opinion.
Mr. Bagbin stressed the situation obtains “because in Ghana we have not developed what we call lobbying. There are rules; there are ethics regarding lobbying and we in Ghana think that lobbying is taking money, giving it to MPs and writing pieces for them to go articulate on the floor. That is bribery.”
So far, subsequent news reports indicate that Mr. Bagdbin has denied the story as being misquoted “completely”. What is not clear is what he is actually denying. Is he denying the fact that he said “MPs are Ghanaians”? Or the fact that he said, “there is evidence that some MPs take bribes and come to the floor and try to articulate the views of their sponsors”? Or, ” that the practice had persisted because of the lack of laid-down rules and ethics on lobbying in the country”?
The best way to avoid the negative effects of such active lobbying of Parliament by foreign multinational corporations and governments, is public scrutiny, and transparency. We do not see any reason why the minutes of our meeting with Parliament must be denied to us the public! It is once more a confirmation of our contention that the Plant Breeders’ Bill currently at the Consideration Stage before our Parliament is all about the imposition of genetically modified organisms into our food chain without public awareness, discussion, or public participation in that decision.
Far from simply dealing with the rights of the plant breeder, the Bill is designed to pre-empt the laws of Ghana and prevent farmers from freely saving, using, and sharing seed from season to season as they have always done. The ultimate result of the bill will be to put Ghana’s food supply into the hands of foreign corporations. GMOs are bullets aimed at the heart of Ghana and the Plant Breeders ’Bill serves as the cross-hairs enabling foreign corporations to directly target Ghana. The objective is to disable the ability of Ghanaians to legally challenge anything relating to GMO imposition.
The Bill also lacks safeguards that are important to protect traditional farming practices and public interests and to prevent misappropriation of Ghana’s genetic resources as well as to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of local germplasm.
So far, the Bill has been developed without consultations with the wider civil society and smallholder farmer community. And currently, as it stands, the Bill is inconsistent with Ghana’s obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
Are Multi National Corporations paying our MPs to fast track and pass the Plant Breeders Bill, without public awareness and participation?