It has come to the attention of the Food Sovereignty Platform (FSP) that Parliament is currently discussing the passage of the Plant Variety Protection Bill, 2020, which is simply a renaming of the infamous Plant Breeders’ Bill without any changes in the contents.
The Food Sovereignty Platform made up of the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), Vegetarians Association of Ghana (VAG), Rastafarian Council of Ghana, Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisation Development (CIKOD), Ghana Muslim Mission (GMM) and Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coalition is convening this press conference to highlight our profound displeasure and sense of betrayal by key government institutions regarding the UPOVcompliant Plant Breeders Bill currently before the legislative house under the guise of Plant Variety Protection Bill, awaiting Parliamentary approval.
Ladies and gentlemen from the press, our disappointment stems from the long history of our objection to the provisions of the Plant Breeders Bill way back in 2013. On Tuesday, November 11, 2014, the then Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho, brought the process to a halt and called for “further consultations” with all stakeholders before proceeding. to halt the parliamentary process. This was to enable the promoters of the bill to engage in wider consultations with stakeholders, to ensure that the provisions of the bill are reflective of the collective goals of the populace and is not inimical to the plight of farmers and food security in Ghana.
Ladies and gentlemen, there were no further consultations, since then, until the ending of the 6th Parliament. It has therefore been our expectation that under the 7th Parliament, the Cabinet of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, would encourage such consultations before presenting the bill to Parliament. Unfortunately, the process was bedevilled with lack of transparency, entrenched positions, secrecy and display of bad faith on the part of the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) and the relevant bodies assigned to conduct what they called “a sensitization exercise”, resulting in the sneaking of the “unknown bill” to Parliament for their speedy passage on the blind side of key stakeholders.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the RGD, since the referral by the Cabinet of President Akufo-Addo to engage stakeholders has had a series of engagements with some members of this platform to seek our concerns on this bill. During these engagements, the platform had made it clear that we were fundamentally opposed to the rigid UPOV-91 Convention on which the bill is based and strongly recommended a sui generis plant variety protection system which respected farmers’ rights as well as those of the plant breeders. Ladies and Gentlemen, in June this year and after consulting our broader constituencies, we formally wrote to the Office of the President, the Speaker of Parliament and the Registrar General’s Department officially stating our position on the bill and gave five key reasons why the bill is not in the best interest of the country.
- The bill is hostile to small farmers in particular and farmers generally, it does not allow farmers to sell and exchange seeds from so called “protected varieties, thus it is heavily tilted in favour of commercial breeders and undermines farmers’ rights.
- The bill undermines Ghana’s sovereignty and will weaken the agricultural sector through the ambiguous provision of Section 23.
- The Bill undermines Ghana’s biodiversity and food sovereignty by prioritizing the production of seeds by plant breeders that may be financially profitable to the breeders. This does not mean that the varieties developed are suitable for the needs of Ghana and ensures food sovereignty.
- The Bill undermines Ghana’s private seed breeders and a competitive industry. As the bill is based on UPOV 91, it is designed to strengthen the power of the largest global seed companies and will put the Ghanaian seed companies at a disadvantage.
- The Bill violates the Ghanaian value system and places the rights of the plant breeder over and above the rights of farmers.
We are left to wonder in whose interest this bill is serving if the government has not even been moved to consider the prospect of the bill promoting biopiracy of Ghana’s genetic resources and infringing on The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing, of which Ghana is a signatory by ratification. Ladies and gentlemen of the press, in whose interest does this bill really serve?
We proposed that Ghana should instead be working on getting a sui generis farmers’ rights and plant breeders’ bill that promotes and protects the rights of smallholder farmers in particular and farmers in general and not a bill that is heavily skewed towards protection of large corporations engaged in commercial breeding and which undermines farmers rights. Once again, there was no response from any of these institutions.
Ladies and Gentlemen from the press, though the bill hasn’t been passed yet, it is before parliament and there’s a possibility of going through the process before this Parliament is dissolved. We would therefore like to use this medium to request Parliament to halt all processes leading to the passage of this bill and to truly call for open and transparent engagement of all stakeholders.
We also call on the leadership of the August house to hold on with the passage of the bill until issues raised by CSOs have been considered. We would also like to throw out a word of caution to the Members of Parliament that as we approach the 2020 elections, we are keeping a close eye on any MP who votes in support of the bill and we will not hesitate in advising our members in voting against such members, as it is clear that they do not serve the interest of their constituents.
Lastly, the platform is exploring all avenues legally permissible to oppose this obnoxious bill and fight for the rights, life and dignity of the small holder farmer.
Long live the small holder farmer.
God bless you all