Red Alert! ARIPO PVP: A Dirty Deal In The Making, Is President Mahama On Strings?
An international version of Plant Breeders Bill is about to be imposed on Ghana by Ghanaian representatives. This fraudulent deal is about to be concluded on our behalf, today, Monday, 6th July, 2015, at the Mount Meru Hotel, in Arusha, Tanzania. This is a big deal. The Ministerial Conference of ARIPO, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation, ARIPO, is billed to approve of a Draft Plant Variety Protocol which has been described as “one of the greatest thefts of natural resources in human history”.
Have the President and his ministers been hypnotized by the GMO lobby, by the G7, the US Embassy, USAID, its contractors, and Monsanto and friends? Are they deaf to to calls from the Ghanaian public? Monsanto is the premier poisoner of the planet. Monsanto and its agribusiness cronies want to control the agriculture of our entire continent. With this law Monsanto and the agribusiness industry can control all the seeds, all of what will be grown, what an entire continent may be able to eat, and whether it eats. Only those few farmers with money will be able to pay their prices for their seeds.
Considering the controversial nature of the meeting, especially its high profile and the intense lobbying activities being carried out by the usual pro-GM lobby, the USAID, G7, among others, it is safe to assume that either the President is in the know and approves of it, or he has lost total control over his Administration, and therefore, at least, incompetent, and or corrupt.
If, on the other hand, the President is not aware of the controversy surrounding the Plant Breeders’ Bill, or the ongoing attempts to impose it from outside if they can’t pass it in Ghana by means of the current Draft ARIPO Plant Variety Protection Protocol. then he is politically comatose, and unfit to rule. It is most alarming that this is happening without any public awareness and participation.
As strange as it may be, it remains our safest assumption that the President is fully aware of what is going on. We therefore demand accountability directly from him. And we call upon all the good people of Ghana to join us in demanding answers.
The ARIPO PVP Protocol
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa AFSA, described the ARIPO Plant Variety Protocol (ARIPO PVP), as being aimed at creating “a harmonised regional plant variety protection system within the region in order to give prominence to breeders and place restrictions on seed/varieties protected under such a system. Such protected varieties are bred and sold to farmers through seed companies and other private entities and government/private led subsidy agricultural programmes. The main goal is to facilitate the capturing of control of seed so that private companies can make profits by forcing farmers to buy seed and pay royalties”.
Clearly, this is not different from the rejected UPOV-compliant Plant Breeders’ Bill, except that it is even worse. It has been described as UPOV 91+. The most stunning aspect of a conference whose decisions have such far-reaching consequences on all of us is the secrecy surrounding it. ARIPO is known for not being transparent, but even by ARIPO’s own standards, this conference has been the murkiest. There have been no public announcements, in the member states, no stake-holder consultations, no public awareness and participation.
The whole process has been as transparent as mud. As clandestine as a thief in the night, African governments, are being led by Ghana, are actively advocating the adoption of the ARIPO PVP Protocol! ARIPO is attempting to do to Africa, what our own Parliament failed to do to us, with the Plant Breeders’ Bill, thanks to a massive public opposition to it. And…, surprise, surprise, this has the active support of the Ghanaian government!
The question that naturally arises is what is the basis on which the government supporting such an international legislative project that has been overwhelmingly rejected in Gh ana? Who is Ghana representing at ARIPO? Are they representing the interests of Ghanaians or the wishes of their USAID lobbyists and multinational seed corporations waiting in the wings to reap huge profits at our expense?
A very bad deal indeed!
Everything that was bad about the Plant Breeders’ Bill is equally bad with the ARIPO PVP. They are both based on the UPOV 91 Convention. If the draft ARIPO PVP Protocol is to be adopted without changes, ARIPO and any ARIPO member that ratifies the Protocol can join UPOV 1991. This means that any member state of ARIPO can simply side step national consultation processes and ratify the ARIPO Protocol, and in doing so, give up its national sovereignty to a centralised decision making authoring, and further, become a UPOV 1991 member.
A recent study published in June 2015 , by the German Government, calls for the same recommendations we have been making for the past two years. The report indicates one of the key recommendations as: “Developing countries that have not yet joined UPOV should consider opting for alternative sui generis systems of PVP that allow for more flexibility in meeting the obligations of different treaties, for balancing the interests of diverse actors, and for protecting and promoting Farmers’ Rights, compared with the UPOV system.” (See: The UPOV Convention, Farmers’ Rights and Human Rights – An integrated assessment of potentially conflicting legal frameworks” (it is online and can be downloaded on the GIZ webpage: http://www.giz.de/fachexpertise/downloads/giz2015-en-upov-convention.pdf)
The same points that were made against the Plant Breeders’ Bill remain valid with the ARIPO PVP:
“The Bill is modeled on the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of 1991 (UPOV 1991) which 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.
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. In view of this, it is truly unfortunate and even irrational that instead of designing a PVP regime that reflects the agricultural framework and realities of Ghana as some other countries have done (e.g. India, Thailand, Ethiopia), Ghana is choosing to adopt and be bound by UPOV 1991 without any concrete evidence or impact assessment of the necessity and impacts of adopting such a regime.” (See: Ghana’s Plant Breeders Bill Lacks Legitimacy! It Must Be Revised!).
What Needs To Be Done!
As the Executive President of the republic of Ghana, President John Mahama has the power and responsibility to make sure that the right thing is done. We particularly encourage the media to start ringing people up to ask what is going on at the ARIPO meeting. And what is the government of Ghana up to there when it is unable to find consensus an a national PBR law that is based on the ARIPO Protocol. At the very least, we must speak out; embarrass them and even if they do not change their position, we will have a track record to continue to expose and to challenge them.
If what is going on is with the express consent of His Excellency, President John Dramani Mahama, The Executive President of the Republic of Ghana, then he clearly owes Ghanaians some explanations as to Ghana’s position on the ARIPO PVP and how representative of Ghanaians that is! Above all, the President must explain how this behaviour does not contradict his Oath of Office.
The only plausible explanation why African governments blatantly abandon their solemn Oaths of Office to promote the safety and well-being of their people, and rather choose the side of their exploiters, is because they think they can get away with it! We must all assure the President he shall never get away with this, if he does not put his feet down to ensure that this obnoxious protocol is revised!
For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!
Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Contact: Tel: +233 249867238 / +233 207973808