Food Sovereignty Ghana

A grass-roots food advocacy movement of Ghanaians both home and abroad!

USA Can Keep Their GMO Money!

It sounded very odd to hear the information officer at the US embassy, Jeanne Clark, say that Ghana reserves the right to open its agricultural landscape to accommodate genetically modified foods. See: Ghana can choose or reject GMOs – US Embassy Dec 16, 2013. Who does not know this? Why does she feel the need to repeat such a banality? It is obvious that the US embassy would be pleased to see the Plant Breeders’ Bill passed even in its current form.

“We view it is Ghana’s decision to decide what is right for Ghana but we recognize the importance of the science led research aspect of it. There is tremendous research out there that shows the benefit of nutrition fortification,” She was reported to have said.

She tells the usual biotechnology-industry lies about nutrition fortification (there are no successful GMO examples so far) and food security (the opposite is true). And of course the article describes what amounts to aid bribery. We read the lie that GMOs are somehow more scientific. Ruining the land does not lead to food security, nor does preventing farmers from saving seeds. The arguments she offers are familiar lies.  Shorter version of the Information Officer’s words, We are just trying to help, with the implication that not accepting that acquisitive “help” is ignorant and ungrateful.

These comments come immediately after it became apparent that Parliament failed to pass the Plant Breeders’ Bill as planned by the end of the year. The failure to quietly pass the Bill means that it is going to come under intense public scrutiny, hence these declarations from the US embassy. We have seen it all before. US diplomats tell Ghana the US is bringing 3 Ds: defense diplomacy and development. It will work as well as the 19th century 3 Cs: commerce, Christianity, and civilization.

They are even adding financial inducement. The USAID – Ghana Mission Director, James A. Bever was also reported to have said at the same event: “We have sent the financial obligation document to Minister Seth Tekper and we hope he will be signing it in a few weeks,” He added that out of 150 million, they have 120 million in their account adding “assuming this package, if we were to resource it at the level that we forecast, for the strategy, it will be $850 million starting with what we call fiscal year 13 monies when we are now crossing the end of the fiscal year 13.”

It is important that we make it clear to the US that they can keep their money! Any businessman or woman who walks unto our shores to propose any kind of business that requires we allow him or her the right to ignore our laws, is a strange business person indeed! Why should we suffer the indignity of hearing this? What type of business is this one that requires a complete disregard of any measures to regulate its activities?

How can we give up our right to regulate something as important as the food we eat? Do they take Ghanaians for animals who have no say about what is in their food? We live in a world where scientific experiments have been conducted on populations without their consent, sometimes with disastrous consequences, such as the Tuskegee experiment in which black men were left untreated with syphilis in order to watch how their disease progressed. Roundup herbicide is right now being sprayed on GMO crops and on thousands of farm workers around the world, human guinea pigs in a giant Monsanto “experiment”.

Why should such a fundamental right such as the right to feed ourselves be given to an industry so clearly dominated by giant foreign corporations with a history of disregard for human life and safety, such as Monsanto? Monsanto fights every inch to avoid compensating the victims of its bad products. It is not a company we can trust. Monsanto started selling its Roundup herbicide as biodegradable, until a court order banned them from making those false claims. Roundup spray becomes a component of a vast majority of GMO crops. When we eat GMO crops, or animals fed GMO crops, we are eating Roundup. Monsanto said it was as safe as table salt. It turns out it is a biocide, dangerous to anything that lives. Before that Monsanto lied about DDT for decades.

Monsanto’s track record includes Agent Orange, saccharin, dioxin, you name it! Putting King Herod in charge of mother-care is a better idea than putting Monsanto in charge over our food! It is not too difficult to understand that the plant breeder, like any other commercial activity requires a certain level of legal protection. What we fail to understand is why such a right ought to be over and above the laws of the land? And why should they be able to steal Ghana’s genetic material and patent it as their creation?

When the Food Sovereignty Ghana delegation met Parliament, the Plant Breeders Bill had already gone through the First and Second Reading. It still contains the outrageous Clause 23 that puts the rights of foreign corporate plant breeders above the laws of Ghana and above the rights of Ghana’s citizens. In the Plant Breeders’ Bill before Parliament, Clause 23 is perhaps the most outrageous clause introduced to Parliament since the 6th of March 1957. The offending Clause is easy to understand. Whereas, the Constitution of Ghana makes even the Human Rights of citizens subject to the laws of Ghana, the Plant Breeders’ right is placed over and above that of the state. Clause 23 reads:

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.”

US officials must be more than aware of the WTO rules that they themselves helped to put into place. Under these rules, whilst Ghana may have the right to pass the law, we automatically lose any right to repeal or even amend it later on. This Bill, once passed, can never be revoked. According to the WTO rules, even if a Least Developed Country, LDC, introduces a TRIPS-compliant obligation on IP-protection, it would no longer be able to reduce that scope of protection, regardless of the fact that the LDC is not required to implement the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights – TRIPS Agreement.” This is certainly one of the most contentious points in the negotiations known as the “no-rollback” (NRB) clause. See: LDC TRIPS exemption approved with mixed reactions:

What is even more alarming is that after pointing this out, our Parliamentarians did not seem to see the gravity of the situation. The most alarming of all were the remarks from the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Mrs. Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, as well as the Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr. Yakubu Alhassan. Their words and actions are both embarrassing and a grave danger to Ghana. We have no confidence that things would turn out differently without mass awareness and participation in this decision.

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

Ali-Masmadi Jehu-Appiah,

Chairperson, FSG

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