Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) strongly opposes the UPOV 91 compliant Plant Breeders’ Bill, currently before Ghana ‘s Parliament!
UPOV 91 (International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) is an international law when applied, will facilitate wholesale theft of the genetic inheritance of Ghanaians, developed freely over centuries with seeds grown and traded collectively as part of our farming culture.
This UPOV law is pure biopiracy! It does not allow for informed consent, access nor benefit sharing. It sets up a framework for plant breeders, invariably foreign companies, to use the living DNA of Ghana’s seeds, to develop new varieties without credit, attribution, or remuneration to those who painstakingly developed these seeds.
The “new variety” thus becomes exclusive corporate property under Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), which our smallholder farmers will be under contract to buy from them. Our farmers may also have to pay royalties to these foreign corporations if they give or sell their own seeds in local markets or to neighbouring farmers.
Ghanaian farmers have always saved seeds to plant the next season. This is the business of farming. Should this practice be reduced or ended by law? In Colombia, tons of conventional seeds of local farmers have been confiscated by their government and destroyed. Is that what we want to happen in Ghana?
Agribusiness representatives frequently say GMO crops are safe and more productive, but in country after country they have eventually been proved to be completely wrong. The entire point of genetic modification by agribusiness corporations is to control the seed supply in individual countries and around the globe through IPRs.
There are no GMO laboratory created crops that are more productive, more resistant to climate change or pests, than seeds produced by conventional breeding techniques and generations of local research. GMO pest resistance to insects and weeds comes entirely from toxic chemicals engineered into the plants or applied in massive doses to the plants.
It is vital that Ghana’s MPs be fully informed about the effects of these laws. The information provided by the US Embassy, Monsanto, and the pro-GMO lobby makes it sound that UPOV 91 will bring investment and profit to Ghana. No, this is not true. The experience of other countries, such as India, strongly shows that it will instead lead to driving rural families off their land into the cities.
All profits will leach out of Ghana and into the foreign corporations, as in colonial times. If foreign corporations control our seed supply they control our food. If they control our food they control our ability to grow and eat, when, if and what we want.
At the regional level, the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) is in the process of adopting similar, but worse, legislation. The draft ARIPO legal framework is not only based on UPOV law, it also creates a centralised regime whereby all decisions concerning protected varieties will be taken at regional level. It means our laws can be set aside by this foreign organisation, thereby completely undermining Ghana’s sovereignty to regulate seeds according to national needs and interests. We will have new colonial masters!
What can you do as a Parliamentarian? Listen to your constituents, not your Party Whips. Do not vote for UPOV 91. Do not vote for the Plant Breeders Bill!
For, and on behalf of Food Sovereignty Ghana,