Food Sovereignty Ghana

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Withdraw the Plant Breeders' Bill!

July 29, 2020
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The Obnoxious Plant Breeders’ Bill Is Back To Parliament!


The Obnoxious Plant Breeders’ Bill Is Back To Parliament!

by Food Sovereignty Ghana, July 29, 2020

It has come to our attention that the Cabinet of President Akuffo-Addo has taken the decision to re-introduce the controversial Plant Breeders’ Bill back to Parliament without taking into account any of the objections raised against it for the past seven years.

Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) unreservedly condemns this decision. Even though Ghana, as a member of the World Trade Organization and is under a WTO obligation to protect the intellectual property of new plant varieties, this must not provide the excuse to impose the stringent restrictive regime being introduced. The bill the Cabinet of President Akufo-Addo just recommended to Parliament 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).

As has been pointed out on several occasions, “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 a “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/

Controversy

It would be recalled that the last time the UPOV-compliant Plant Breeders Bill was laid in Parliament, in 2013, it sparked a huge controversy to the extent that the then Speaker of Parliament had to take the unprecedented decision to withdraw the bill which was already at the Consideration Stage, “for further consultations”.

Several farmers’ associations, civil society organisations, faith-based organisations, as well as prominent individuals and international organisations who raised their voices against the bill were concerned about the basis on which Ghana opted for UPOV 91 when many independent experts and UN reports have actually recommended that developing countries should not join the UPOV system as it offers a rigid model inappropriate for developing countries where farmer managed seed systems (informal seed systems) and the practices of freely saving, using, exchanging and selling seeds are prevalent. Most saw the decision for UPOV91 as benefiting commercial breeders and consequent revisions to the act have leaned towards promoting genetic uniformity in crop varieties, which can have drastic effects on biodiversity.

Another pertinent issue raised in the petitions is a simple demand that has never been responded. It is the call for fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of Ghana’s genetic resources. We urgently need answers from Cabinet as to why there is still no provision in the Bill requiring the disclosure of origin in the application for the plant breeder right. This provision is critical for combating biopiracy of our genetic resources. UPOV establishes no mechanisms or safeguards against the practice of ‘biopiracy’.

A key element in the controversy is the demand to see the disclosure of origin of all genetic materials in the applications for patents or plant variety protection, in order to protect Ghana from biopiracy. Biopiracy or a situation where indigenous knowledge of nature, originating with indigenous peoples, is used by others for profit, without permission from and with little or no compensation or recognition to the indigenous people themselves. The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources is one of the three objectives of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD recognises the sovereign right of states over their natural resources in areas within their jurisdiction. See: The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-Sharing.pdf http://www.cbd.int/undb/media/factsheets/undb-factsheet-nagoya-en.pdf

The Plant Breeders’ Bill in its current form, is a paradise for bio pirates, usually giant multinational seed corporations, which seek to take advantage of our genetic resources at Ghana’s expense. As Paul Raeburn puts it in his book, The Last Harvest: The Genetic Gamble That Threatens to Destroy American Agriculture (page 95): “The value of crop germplasm, a kind of green gold, is never clear until it is put to use. The examples of Norin10 and IR36 clearly show that crop germplasm can often be worth billions”.

There are several obnoxious clauses such as the criminalisation of farmers, (See: Clause 58) which still remain in the current text. Clause 21 reduces the right of the farmer to the discretion of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, whilst Clause 23 of the Bill elevates the plant breeder’s rights over and above the laws of Ghana. The situation was grave. It was in this light that FSG wrote to congratulate His Excellency, President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo upon his election, dated December 13, 2016, stating among other things:

“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.” See: FSG Congratulates President-Elect Nana Akufo-Addo, December 13, 2016. https://foodsovereigntyghana.org/fsg-congratulates-president-elect-nana-akufo-addo/

“Sensitisation” Workshops

In the evening of Wednesday, 26th February, 2020, FSG was alerted to an ongoing two-day “National Workshop on the Plant Breeders’ Bill”, in Accra organized by the Registrar General’s Department where the reviewed Plant Breeders’ Bill was expected to be presented. FSG only heard of this at the end of the first day from a representative from the Peasant Farmers’ Association of Ghana, PFAG. No formal invitation was ever extended, but were informed by a participant that “the organisers said FSG was welcome”.

It was at this ‘workshop’ that FSG learned from the organisers that the Cabinet of President Nana Akufo-Addo has taken the decision to re-introduce to Parliament, the controversial UPOV91-compliant Plant Breeders’ Bill without any changes. Naturally, since none of the numerous objections raised by civil society and faith-based organisations against the bill have been taken into consideration, a backlash is feared. Consequently, in order to preempt that, the idea of “sensitization workshop” was embarked upon, following Cabinet’s advice to first ‘educate stakeholders”. According to news reports, Mr. Samuel Anum, Project Coordinator of the Intellectual Property Project, Ministry of Trade and Industry, has indicated that “another one would be held for the northern sector to well educate stakeholders within that part of the country”.

Many organisations, including Food Sovereignty Ghana, that have publicly come out against the Plant Breeders’ Bill were not even invited to the workshops. This clearly clashed with the demands by numerous organisations for consultations, transparency, public awareness and participation in such an important decision. And as it happened, the meeting was structured in such a fashion that instead of the expected discussion on the fundamental objections to the bill, the meeting was turned into a classroom with several “professors” taking turns to lecture each participant who opened dared the mouth, within the limited time, without any interest in feed-back, nor any right of reply from the participants. And all this “discussion” happened in less than two hours.

Even though no one even saw a copy of the Plant Breeders’ Bill, at any of those “workshops”, the organisers were able to come to the conclusion that “invariably, there was much more of a consensus” (on the acceptance of the bill) at the Accra workshop and most probably, all the workshops. [See: Video Report on Meeting… Part One, 51.10] It is difficult to see how any form of transparency can be achieved when the invitations to the workshops themselves appear skewed towards organisations and institutions that have already expressed some form of support for the Plant Breeders’ Bill in the past, while very few of those who had even petitioned the Parliament over the same bill were excluded. 

As our report on the meeting indicates, “There was no opportunity given in the programme for Food Sovereignty Ghana to respond to their answers, by way of feedback or further clarifications. We have thus included our response here. The very first time FSG has received any form of justification for “opting for UPOV” was the response from Mrs Grace Ishaque. She mentions our French-speaking neighbours,”Now, let’s ask ourselves, we are living in the global world, all the seventeen African countries, the francophone countries surrounding Ghana, they have all acceded to the UPOV.” She also says UPOV is a sui generis system. That is not enough. We asked for a ‘sui generis plant variety protection law that takes into consideration our local conditions’.”

The facts of the matter is that the seventeen “francophone countries surrounding Ghana” belong to the Organisation Africain de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI – African Intellectual Property Organisation),  
introduced Annex X on plant variety protection – modelled on UPOV 1991 in 2006 – and they acceded to UPOV in 2014. Evidence shows that the membership of OAPI has not brought them any advantages. On the contrary data show that the Implementation of UPOV 1991 Unnecessary For the Development of a Strong Seed Market. A recent study on UPOV in West Africa reveals the ineffectiveness of the UPOV system even after 10 years of implementation. The OAPI study shows that implementing a UPOV-style PVP law in Western Africa brought no benefit for the french speaking countries, their farmers or seed sector.
 
One argument of the “sensibilisation team” was one of reciprocity of UPOV. This argument is a mute one as  breeders in UPOV countries need to protect their variety in every state where they like to have protection. And breeders in non-UPOV countries can do the same. It is also argued by the proponents of the UPOV system, that membership of UPOV is a prerequisite to promote breeding activities and support development of a national seed market. But the recently published Access to Seed Index data seems to confirm that there is no causal relationship between the UPOV system and a dynamic seed sector. On the contrary, countries with a non-UPOV sui generis plant variety protection (PVP) legislation or even without a PVP legislation have in some regions the most vibrant seed sector. (Pls see https://www.apbrebes.org/files/seeds/Article%20UPOV_Access%20to%20Seed%20Index_Final_0.pdf)
 
As of today, the informal or farmer seed system still covers over 85% of the Ghanaian Seed market (see also https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/seed-market-in-ghana). Therefore any seed law – including plant variety protection, needs to support both systems (the formal and the informal one). This is also recommended by the FAO – Voluntary Guide for National Seed Policy Formulation:
 
“Strengthening both formal and informal seed systems is therefore an integral part of the sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA)”.  A main tool to strengthen the farmer seed system is to promote farmers rights – including the right to save, use, exchange and sell seeds. And before drafting any pvp law there should be an analysis about the current seed systems. Ghana clearly has not followed any of these recommendations. The process itself is therefore totally wrong. 

When Ghana develops a plant variety protection right, it should take into account the process developed in the FAO Voluntary Guide for National Seed Policy Formulation. This includes first and foremost the evaluation of the existing system and knowledge about the role of the Farmers Seed System (informal system). The aim must be to strengthen farmers’ rights and the Farmer Seed System with a new plant variety protection law. The following lines from the FAO Voluntary Guide show this necessity. 

Sound seed policy development requires a sequence of steps: careful problem analysis to determine the need for a seed policy, a thorough assessment of relevant technical and institutional aspects of the seed sector followed by a participatory formulation process involving all relevant stakeholders including small farmers. (Page3) See: FAO – Voluntary Guide for National Seed Policy Formulation http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4916e.pdf


There are independent scientific studies that confirm this. For example, Centre for International Environmental Studies Research Paper cites:


Effective and well-designed IPRs are expected, in theory, to contribute to technology transfer by trade, licensing or foreign direct investment. This paper analyzes the effect of IPRs on trade in the sector of agricultural seeds, specifically on the effects on trade as a channel for technology transfer. The TRIPS Agreement has continued to be fiercely debated between North and South, particularly with respect to its provisions for the agricultural sector. Article 27.3(b) requires WTO member countries to offer some form of IP protection for new plant varieties, either in the form of patents (common in the US) or PBRs. It can be argued for the specific case of agricultural seeds that the introduction or strengthening of IPRs in countries with generally less innovative capacity in plant breeding will lead to an increase in seed imports from those countries possessing such capacity. Exporting firms would most likely expand their range of seed products exported to a country introducing IPRs. The paper therefore specifically analyzes the effects of the introduction of PBRs in almost 80 importing countries on the value of exports of agricultural seeds and planting material from 10 exporting EU countries, including all principal traditional exporters of seeds, as well as the US. The paper finds no significant effect from UPOV membership, as an indicator of the scope and strength of IPRs affecting the plant breeding sector, on seed imports, i.e. there is no evidence that the adoption of a UPOV system of PBRs positively influences seed imports. See: Trade and Intellectual Property Rights in the Agricultural Seed Sector,  Derek J.F. Eaton (2013). Centre for International Environmental Studies Research Paper No. 20/2013.  https://ssrn.com/abstract=2323595 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2323595
Another study on the “Impacts of Strengthened Intellectual Property Rights Regimes on the Plant Breeding Industry in Developing Countries: A Synthesis of Five Case Studies”, commissioned by the World Bank makes it clear:
“This study analyses initial experiences with strengthened IPRs and their effect on agriculture in developing countries, focusing on five case studies – China, Colombia, India, Kenya and Uganda. It assumes that the primary justification for IPRs is to increase welfare in society, but that the monopoly may disadvantage particular stakeholders. Careful consideration is thus needed of the different seed systems in the country and of the balance of economic interests of different stakeholders. The study finds that the emergence of the private seed sector in the case study countries owes relatively little to national IP regimes; the most dynamic private seed sector in the sample (India) has grown and diversified without benefit of any IPRs. With the exception of China (a UPOV 1978 member), the study found little evidence of actual revenue generation from breeding through IPRs. Instead, NARIs’ focus on revenue generation may divert attention from the needs of marginal farmers in favor of breeding objectives and methodologies directed at large-scale commercial production, and may affect the conduct of participatory methods in breeding and variety selection. The study also finds that farmers’ seed systems are the main source of seed and new varieties for most crops in the case study countries and that IPRs may reduce the effectiveness of these systems by limiting the saving, exchanging and selling of farmer-produced seed of protected varieties. The study concludes by pointing to significant lessons, including: (1) IPR regimes should be consistent with developing countries’ priorities and capacities instead of being externally imposed; (2) IPRs in plant breeding should be seen in the context of a wider range of agricultural policies, but IPR regimes themselves must be carefully tailored to specific situations; (3) the need to assess whether particular IPR regimes are actually providing incentives for seed system development consistent with national agricultural goals; (4) countries should recognize that they have choices in designing legislation consistent with the TRIPS Agreement; and (5) farmers should participate in debates regarding possible IPR regimes and that their interests and priorities are reflected in the work of public agricultural research. Important parameters that require careful consideration for PVP are: (1) the designation of which species are to be covered; (2) fee structures (and possible subsidies or differentiation by crop); (3) the nature of the breeder’s exemption for use of protected varieties; and (4) implications for farmers’ abilities to save, exchange and sell seed.” See: N.P. Louwaars, R. Tripp, D. Eaton, V. Henson-Apollonio, R. Hu, M. Mendoza, F. Muhhuku, S. Pal & J. Wekundah (2005). Report commissioned by the World Bank. Wageningen University and Research. https://library.wur.nl/WebQuery/wurpubs/fulltext/36798
Conclusion
 
There is something fundamentally wrong with the decision to adopt UPOV 91 Convention as Ghana’s plant variety protection regime. The Cabinet has the power to withdraw the bill and improve upon it before presenting it to Parliament. Since the Cabinet is responsible to the President, we shall be addressing our petitions to the President for urgent redress. What we seek is meaningful and inclusive consultations. The so-called “Sensitisation” workshop was a sham. When we raised the issues of inclusivity and broader consultations, FSG was invited to a special workshop. 
 
A human rights impact assessment of the 1991 Act of UPOV implementation concluded “…if implemented and enforced, UPOV 91 would sever the beneficial inter-linkages between the formal and informal seed systems”, and its “restrictions on the use, exchange and sale of protected seeds could adversely affect the right to food, as seeds might become either more costly or harder to access” as well as “other human rights, by reducing the amount of household income which is available for food, healthcare or education.”
 
Experts believe that the prevailing policy framework favours centralized crop breeding and the creation of uniform environmental conditions and discourages agro-ecological research or local breeding tailored to local conditions.[Source: United Nations Development Programme (2008) “Towards a Balanced Sui Generis Plant Variety Regime”, available at http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/poverty-reduction/toward-a-balanced-sui-generis-plant-variety-regime.html
 
Even the UN General Secretary warns about the risk of UPOV as “An additional challenge that has advanced to the forefront is the pressures exerted on small-scale farming stemming from the provisions of the 1991 Act of UPOV. Restrictions on seed management systems can lead to a loss of biodiversity and in turn harm the livelihoods of small-scale farmers as well as weaken the genetic base on which we all depend for our future supply of food. As smallholders rely predominantly on informal seed systems, the restriction imposed by the Act on the use of farm-saved seeds and the prohibitions on their exchange and sale cause considerable concern.” [Source : See Report of UN Secretary General, Agriculture development, food security and nutrition para 68].
 
We shall join forces with all well-meaning Ghanaians, irrespective of party political affiliation, in demanding a withdrawal of the Plant Breeders’ Bill in its current form. We are already in talks with allied organisations, and invite all those who are yet to make the move to join us in this campaign.
 
No doubt, the interests behind the push for the UPOV-compliant Plant Breeders Bill are rich and powerful. Hence this is a struggle that can only be waged at the grassroots. For instance, if you do not see this statement in the media, as it was the case in the past, do not be surprised. The long reach of the corporate lobby is at work. The only way to counter them is the power of enlightened public opinion. We count on individual Ghanaians to help champion this cause on the social media hashtag, #WithdrawPlant BreedersBill, copied to @GhanaPresidency, asking for the right thing to be done because we are of sound mind and intent to vote in the December elections to see the back of any administration that seeks to impose the UPOV-compliant Plant Breeders’ Bill on Ghanaians.
 

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Director of Communications, FSG

Contact:
Phone: +233 207973808

May 30, 2020
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Plant Breeders’ Bill: FSG Meeting with Government

FSG MEETING WITH THE REGISTRAR GENERAL’S DEPARTMENT & MINISTRY OF FOOD & AGRICULTURE ON THE CALL FOR AMENDMENTS TO THE PLANT BREEDERS BILL,

 PART ONE (1)https://facebook.com/watch/live/?v=174423600665366…  

 PART TWO (2): https://facebook.com/watch/live/?v=174423600665366…  

YouTubeFSG Meeting with Government on the Plant Breeders’ Bill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYrnjacmGfU&t=9s

WhatsApp Image 2020-02-27 at 10.52.33

May 29, 2020
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FSG Is Meeting With Government On The Plant Breeders’ Bill

Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) is meeting with the government this Friday, 29th May 2020, on the Plant Breeders’ Bill. This follows an invitation by the Registrar-General for meeting “as a follow-up to the workshop on Ghana’s Plant Breeders’ Bill which was held on 26th and 27th February, 2020 in Accra, where your organisation raised some issues”.

The issues we raised then were calls on the government to be inclusive in their ongoing consultations on the reintroduction of the Plant Breeders’ Bill. We condemned the fact that even though several organisations and institutions wrote petitions to the Speaker of Parliament, the government appeared to have decided to ignore these petitions and so far, no conscious attempts have even been made to get their side of the story. FSG found it regrettable that, of the numerous groups that petitioned the Speaker on the bill, only three were invited to the workshop organised by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Registrar-General’s Department.

Protest Statement
Indeed, the attention of FSG was drawn in the evening of Wednesday, 26th February, 2020, to an ongoing two-day “National Workshop on the Plant Breeders’ Bill”, in Accra organized by the Registrar General’s Department where the reviewed Plant Breeders’ Bill was expected to be presented. FSG only heard of this at the end of the first day. No formal invitation was ever extended, but were informed by a participant that “the organisers said FSG was welcome”. FSG thus sent observers, Messrs Evans Tawiah, FSG Secretary, and Peterson Agrain Hutrapo Attipoe FSG Director of Operations, who informed the organisers that:

“1. We wish to register our protest against the informal and last minute invitation to such an event of grave national importance. 2. In view of the lack of prior information on the proposed review of the Plant Breeders’ Bill, we shall restrict our participation solely to information gathering. And, 3. We reserve our comments until we have satisfied ourselves as regards the contents of the reviewed bill vis-a-vis the demands in our petition forwarded to the Speaker of Parliament.”

It emerged however, at the workshop that it was not about a “review” of the Plant Breeders’ Bill, but what they called, a sensitisation programme. The message was that that none of the objections raised against the original bill had been taken into consideration, since these objections were sent to the NDC Administration of former President Mahama, and we now have the NPP Administration of President Akufo Addo.

Prof. Hans Adu Daapah, the moderator, actually said, “Food Sovereignty Ghana must resubmit your memo to Parliament… The Constitution of this country is such that when the term of the Parliament ends, everything ends.  You have presented something to the previous Parliament, and you will have to reintroduce yourselves.” Apparently, the new Cabinet has therefore taken the decision to re-introduce the original bill without any changes, hence the need for “sensitisation”.

Non-Inclusive Consultations
Since no one had apparently bothered to take a look at the Petitions against the Plant Breeders’ Bill from various stakeholder groups in Ghana, the organisers clearly had no idea what aggrieved groups, CSOs, FBOs, let alone, to invite. In all there were around 30 participants from “selected from key institutions”, but apart from one or two, hardly anyone invited had sent a petition to the previous government on the same bill.

Hence, as one would expect, most of the “invitees” from institutions and organisations such as the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Alliance for Science Ghana, Ghana Chamber of Agribusiness, University of Ghana, Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute, National Seed Traders Association of Ghana, University of Cape Coast, and the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), were singing from the same hymn sheet.

After FSG reading portions of our objections and suggestions to some of the clauses of the Plant Breeders’ Bill, we are asked to “give in” because we are a “minority” who are trying “to hold the whole country down.” Whilst FSG was stopped from reading the extracts form our previous petition to highlight our concerns on biopiracy, benefit sharing of Ghana’s genetic resources, and the criminalisation of farmers, with a request to us to send our petition by email, we also heard contradictory remarks such as all the objections to the Plant Breeders’ Bill had been already addressed by the previous government.

The workshop itself was long on the need to protect the intellectual property rights of the plant breeder, and short on the plant variety protection models fit for purpose. The discussions covered everything from intellectual property, patents, copyright law, trade marks, industrial design, etc, but nothing on the various models of plant variety protection and why the government is insisting on UPOV 91 Convention. As it turned out, the sensitisation workshop ended with the FSG very much underwhelmed and unsensitised.

FSG Demands
“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.

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.
FSG has never said 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.

It is a well-established position of FSG that, “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.” See: Replace Plant Breeders’ Bill With A “Sui Generis” PVP System.

Live coverage
FSG shall facilitate a live coverage of the entire encounter, in order to promote public awareness and participation in such an important debate. The meeting organisers understandably restricted the number of participants to only “a maximum of fifteen (15) members of your organisation”. In the era of Covid-19 lockdowns and social distancing, this has become the norm. However, thankfully, more and more activities are also going online, where even more people can now participate.

This is also important because such recordings serve as public records for future references in case of misrepresentations afterwards. Previous experience of distortions of our meeting with the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, in 2013, which even surfaced during the last workshop. We never get official transcripts of our meetings with government officials, but some politicians keep misrepresenting us to suit their own agenda. Hence, it is our hope that a live coverage is what we need to ensure transparency, probity, and accountability.

We shall be going live Facebook on Friday, 29th May, 2020, at 10:00 GMT.

Watch: https://www.facebook.com/FoodSovereigntyGhana/live/

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!
Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Communications Directorate, FSG

Contact:
Phone: +233 207973808

 

February 27, 2020
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BREAKING NEWS! #PlantBreedersBill: National Workshop on the Plant Breeders Bill is currently underway…

WhatsApp Image 2020-02-27 at 10.52.33
BREAKING NEWS! #PlantBreedersBill
A two-day National Workshop on the Plant Breeders Bill is currently underway, in Accra organized by the Registrar General’s Department where the reviewed Plant Breeders’ Bill is expected to be presented.
Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) only heard of it at the end of the first day! No formal invitation was extended, but were informed by a participant that the organisers say we were welcome. FSG has sent observers.
Stay tuned!

February 6, 2020
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Ghana’s first GMO Court Case adjourned to February 18

Time: 1pm, at

Venue: Accra Human Rights Court, Court Room 2, Second Floor, The Law Courts Complex, John Evans Atta Mills High St, Accra: https://t.co/3SpShcmiAg?amp=1

SUIT NO. HRC/43/15: Food Sovereignty Ghana & 3 ors Vs National Biosafety Committee & 4 ors, against the commercialisation of genetically modified crops (GM crops) in Ghana.

February 1, 2020
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Ghana’s first GMO Court Case adjourned to February 18

FSG Court Case1

Front row L-R Ras Zewu, Edwin Baffour, George Tetteh Wayoe, Samia Yaba Nkrumah, Bright Awketey.
Back row L-R Pascal Kudiabor (PFAG), Ras Aswad, Jonathan Welberg(Assistant to Bright)

January 20, 2020
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Ghana’s GMO Court Case continues on 30th January 2020

The case involving the commercial release of the first batch of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in three crops in Ghana, is scheduled for hearing at the Accra Human Rights Court on Thursday, 30th January, 2020.

Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) and three others are suing the government of Ghana represented by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the National Biosafety Authority and the Attorney-General’s Department.

It would be recalled that attempts to throw out this case in which one of the defendants sought to challenge a High Court ruling on the court’s jurisdiction to hear a petition brought before it, was rejected by the Supreme Court in a ruling which upheld the fact that the Human Rights High Court did have proper jurisdiction that it applied in ruling on the case brought before it by the four plaintiffs.

The hearing is expected to be one of case management and ensuring that all due processes have been properly filed for the substantive case to proceed. Among the witnesses representing FSG are two independent internationally recognised experts.

This comes at a time when a false narrative is being created in the minds of the Ghanaian public and the international community to create the impression that the government has abandoned the implementation of its policy to impose GMOs on Ghanaians.

The continuation of the case, in which the representatives of the government continue to defend the commercial release of Bt cowpeas, GM rice, as well as Bt cotton, clearly show that the recent utterances of the Minister of Food and Agriculture is nothing but a lot of hot air, possibly occasioned by the Harmattan season, or a deliberate attempt at deceiving Ghanaians for 2020 election. Whatever the motivations may be, it has the effect of fooling the people of Ghana into thinking that all is well, when the reality is far different.

Even though these GMO crops look exactly like their non-GMO counterparts, the scientists behind these experiments do not want them labelled. Apart from the fact that they fear people may not buy them if they are labelled, they also fear traceability and legal liability for any of the possible untoward consequences for consumers should anything happen to them after consumption of the GMO versions of these foods. FSG has long submitted its position paper on the labelling of food and feed containing GMO to the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and have maintained the position that Ghana should have a mandatory labelling regime and not a voluntary one as it seems regulators are considering.

A “former Principal Investigator at SARI and a consultant to the Bt cowpea project, was reported to have told the journalists, who also visited the site for the confined Bt cowpea trials at Nyankpala, that the Bt cowpea would not look different from the conventional ‘Songotra’ that farmers know already and are planting currently”. As at the time of going to court in 2015, the Bt cowpea had not been commercialised anywhere in the world. This was the first time that human beings were being expected to consume them. And Ghanaians had been chosen to be guinea pigs for this product without any known epidemiological studies on its effects human health. In Ghana, cowpeas are key ingredients in staple foods like waakye, gari and beans, ripe plantain and beans (also known as “red red”), etc. Therefore, the impact on the health of the population, as a result of the introduction of unlabelled Bt cowpeas in our food chain, could be devastating if care is not taken.


For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!
Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Communications Directorate, FSG
Contact: +233 207973808
E-mail : info@foodsovereigntyghana.org
Website: http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/
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December 6, 2019
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Food Sovereignty Ghana Salutes All Farmers of the Nation!

Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) salutes all farmers of the nation on this 35th edition of Farmers Day. Indeed we acknowledge and recognise the unique contribution that farmers make to our daily lives and general welfare.

As a predominantly agrarian society the role of the farmer cannot be underestimated. We especially single out the efforts of the small holder farmers who continue to carry the burden of feeding the nation despite the myriads of challenges they face each day.

With the reality of climate change upon us, FSG wishes to repeat our call for a change in policy in our agriculture to adopt agroecology. This is the most sustainable form of food production for the planet and we fully agree with the United Nations Report on Sustainable d Development which recommends a dynamic shift away from commercial inspired agriculture with its increasingly great resource, harmful inputs, to an agroecological system that takes the well-being of the surrounding environment into consideration. It is instructive to note that as we celebrate this year’s Farmers Day, many farms no longer resemble what they looked like only one generation ago in terms of the organic flora and fauna that coexisted there. The critical role played by organisms such as earthworms and bees is increasingly under threat as the use of dangerous pesticides and herbicides is fast eroding their populations. Farmers no longer find mushrooms or snails on their farms.

Specifically it is important in our role as a civil society organisation working for social justice to highlight the extreme danger posed by our continued use of chemicals like Glyphosate in products such as Roundup, which are now officially considered to be carcinogenic. In a  landmark case in the USA a few months ago a court awarded a couple an unprecedented amount of two billion US dollars for compensation, where the dangerous chemical Glyphosate was found to have caused their cancer.  More worrying, is the court determined that the company Bayer Monsanto was fully aware of the injurious nature of this chemical despite their sustained efforts to promote it.

Indeed this must be a red flag for Ghanaians to realise that the agenda of the agribusiness lobby is to promote the sale of their controversial products despite their negative impact on human health and the environment.

The fact remains that four key areas continue to require the attention of key stakeholders, especially government. These are:
1.  The provision of credit to farmers;
2.  The construction of roads from farm gates to markets;
3. The provision of irrigation to increase yields;
4. The provision of post harvest technology to store produce safely and securely.

A greater attention to the challenges to farmers identified above would be a more productive use of resources, than the adoption of GMOs, which in our opinion, would be heavily misguided.

In order to have a sustainably productive agricultural industry it is of great importance for a national agenda to promote the consumption of locally grown food. While the government’s initiative of Planting for Food and Jobs is an admirable one, FSG calls for greater investment to create a local appetite and market for our produce. Greater political will is required to tackle the position that powerful lobbyists have assumed to influence policy against locally produced food.

We take the opportunity to thank all organisations working towards advancing the welfare of farmers across the nation and encourage Ghanaians, especially policymakers to recognize the important role of sustainability in planning for the industry.

Long Live Ghana’s Farmers!

Ayeekoo!

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Communications Directorate, FSG

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

Front row L-R Ras Zewu, Edwin Baffour, George Tetteh Wayoe, Samia Yaba Nkrumah, Bright Awketey.
Back row L-R Pascal Kudiabor (PFAG), Ras Aswad, Jonathan Welberg(Assistant to Bright)

July 10, 2019
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Supreme Court rules in favour of Food Sovereignty Ghana!

Front row L-R Ras Zewu, Edwin Baffour, George Tetteh Wayoe, Samia Yaba Nkrumah, Bright Awketey. Back row L-R Pascal Kudiabor (PFAG), Ras Aswad, Jonathan Welberg(Assistant to Bright)

Front row L-R Ras Zewu, Edwin Baffour, George Tetteh Wayoe, Samia Yaba Nkrumah, Bright Awketey.
Back row L-R Pascal Kudiabor (PFAG), Ras Aswad, Jonathan Welberg(Assistant to Bright)

Accra, July 9, 2019

Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) appeared before the Supreme Court today in a case in which one of the defendants sought to challenge a High Court ruling on the court’s jurisdiction to hear a petition brought before it by FSG and three others.

In a decision which did not take long to conclude, the highest court of the land ruled that the Human Rights High Court did have proper jurisdiction that it applied in ruling on the case brought before it by the four plaintiff parties.

The Supreme Court empaneled by five distinguished legal luminaries also wondered why the plaintiffs had not sought to appeal the High Court’s decision which they disagreed with, rather than invoking the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

It would be recalled that in the last appearance before the Human Rights High Court on June 7, Her Ladyship Justice Gifty Agyei Addo ruled in favour of FSG, that the jurisdiction of the Court was properly invoked to seek the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs given that the tribunal of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to which the defendants claimed should have been the proper body to hear such a case had not been properly constituted as required by law as of the time the case was first filed.

In his submission to the court, Counsel for the 1st , 3rd and 4th plaintiffs, George Tetteh Wayoe thanked the court for the decision and said the issue of introducing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) into Ghana’s food chain had serious implications on the human rights of Ghanaians and thus a competent court of jurisdiction as the court had identified in the High Court’s ruling deserved to hear the case.

FSG hails the Supreme Court ruling as a significant and important victory over the local and international GM lobby that has been eager to flout our laws to introduce Bt cowpeas and GM rice with little or no epidemiological studies investigating the potential effects of their consumption on human health.

For example, the Bt cowpea has not yet been commercialized anywhere in the world. This is the first time that human beings are being expected to consume them. In Ghana, cowpeas are found in staple foods like waakye, garri and beans, ripe plantain and beans (also known as “red red”), etc., hence its impact on the health of the population could be devastating if care is not taken.

For us, the case is clearly a case of human health versus corporate profit. Already, Monsanto’s GM maize, event MON810, which contains the same Cry1Ab gene, and has been approved for human and animal consumption in many countries, has been found to have toxic effects in human liver cells during in vitro experiments exposing the protein produced by MON810 which contains the Cry1Ab gene.

We are particularly pleased that the case was not referred to the so-called GMO Tribunal but in a high court, where we hope to receive unbiased attention and judgement. FSG looks forward to vigorously contest the legal obligations of the National Biosafety Authority in terms of risk assessments, socio-economic impact assessments, as well as public awareness and participation at each stage of the decision-making process leading to the authorization of the confined field trials, which are all standard biosafety practice enshrined in law.

We take this opportunity on such an important milestone to repeat our call to the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to ensure that Ghana develops a mandatory labeling regime for any food or feed containing GMO based ingredients.

The case will continue in the Human Rights High Court on Thursday July 11th, as directed in the last sitting.

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Communications Directorate, FSG

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