It has come to our attention that the Plant Breeders’ Bill PBB, appears on the Parliamentary Business Statement for the Second Week Ending Friday, 14, November, 2014. We therefore seek to take this opportunity to to call on Parliament to do the right thing and reject the Plant Breeders’ Bill in its current form. We consider it an indictment on Ghana’s Parliament that such an extremely bad bill could even travel through the First and Second Readings to reach the Consideration Stage!
It would be recalled that following numerous complaints and Petitions to the Parliament, opposing the bill, the Speaker of Parliament, Right Honourable Edward Doe Adjaho referred the matter to the Leadership of the House. As we keenly await the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the petitions sent to Parliament opposing the PBB, we wish to examine the instructions of the Speaker to the committee. In his instructions, the Speaker was reported as having stated:
“I have received a number of petitions relating to the Genetically Modified Organisms and the Plant Breeders Bill. I have also taken note of the fact that the Biosafety Act, Act 831 which was enacted in 2011 made provisions for the establishment of a regulatory body that is the National Biosafety Authority to deal with most of the concerns raised in those on the Genetically Modified Organisms. Indeed the objectives of the Act provided in section 2 are:
(a) To ensure an adequate level of protection in the field of safe development transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms resulting from biotechnology that may have an adverse effect on health and the environment and
(b) To establish a transparent and predictable process to review and make decision on genetically modified organisms specified in paragraph (a) and related activities.
I would therefore refer this matter to the Leadership to consider and advise the Chair accordingly.
We find the reasons given by the Speaker to be sufficiently alarming and misleading. Apart from the issues with the imposition of GMOs on Ghanaians without any public awareness and participation, there were also substantial matters raised pertaining to intellectual property rights – IPRs.
We wish to take this opportunity to re-iterate some of these points, as the reasons the Speaker presents show him to be ignorant of the contents of the petitions, and he appears not to have read, or not to understand the contents of the Plant Breeders Bill.
The reason why the Plant Breeders Bill is crucial in itself is because it awards so much power over Ghana to agribusiness Trans-National Corporations, TNCs. It is important for their GMOs because the TNCs will not fully release GMOs into Ghana until the Plant Breeders Bill is in place.That is because the Plant Breeders Bill protects the TNCs’ Intellectual Property Rights. IPR or IP, Intellectual property rights, give the corporations their legal power over Ghana. It is the IPRs that will award the TNCs monopoly control over Ghana’s agriculture. Some have called this colonialism by Intellectual Property.
For example, at the meeting with the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, on Wednesday, 4th December, 2013, Food Sovereignty Ghana FSG made several appeals. One of them was a call on the Parliament to delete Clause 23:
”23 Measures regulating commerce.
A plant breeder right shall be independent of any measure taken by the Republic to regulate within Ghana the production, certification and marketing of material of a variety or the importation or exportation of the material.”
The objections by FSG to this particular clause were unassailable. And to date, Parliament has failed to make the records of our meeting public! The FSG petition recommends “ix/ Delete Section 23 on Measures regulating commerce.” FSG position to Parliament was that it is important for the Bill to be coherent with other legislation and national interests such as the protection of environment, health, prevention of misappropriation of genetic resources etc.
We argued that the inclusion of Clause 23 hinders the ability to achieve such coherence as it views the grant of PBR as being independent from other regulations. Our point was that 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.” See: COMMUNIQUÉ: FSG Meets Parliament Over Plant Breeders’ Bill | Food Sovereignty Ghana http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/communique-fsg-meets-parliament-over-plant-breeders-bill/
If, as the Speaker claims, the Biosafety Act, takes care of our concerns, why make the rights of the Plant Breeder “independent of the laws of Ghana”, which necessarily include the Biosafety Act, rather than “subject to the laws of Ghana”? There is nothing in this Bill that shows that the Plant Breeders’ rights are even subject to the laws on Biosafety, since they are “independent” of our laws!There is nothing in the Bill that subjects the rights of the plant breeder to the Biosafety Authority. If the Speaker is not throwing dust into our eyes, we challenge him to point out the relevant section of the present bill that specifically subjects the rights of the plant breeder to the Biosafety Authority!
And whilst he is at it, we also call on the Speaker to show which section of the Bill allows the Biosafety Authority to “regulate within Ghana the production, certification and marketing of material of a variety or the importation or exportation of the material” since the bill makes these rights of the plant breeder independent of any law of the land!
We insist and demand that clause 23 be amended to read:
”23 Measures regulating commerce.
A 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.”
This change is crucial, if Ghana is to escape needless litigations and inevitable judgement debts, as well as the theft of our sovereignty by unscrupulous and rapacious foreign multinational corporations!
For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!