Representatives from various civil society organisations have reiterated their call for a revision of the Plant Breeders Bill. They called for a ‘sui generis’ plant variety protection system as demanded under the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) TRIPS Agreement.
The representatives included Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) of TUC Ghana, Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD), and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation.
They presented their concerns to Parliament after meeting the committee working on the bill.
The concerns were contained in a petition titled: “The title of their petition declared, "Ghana's Plant Breeders' Bill Lacks Legitimacy! It Must Be Revised!"
The Executive Director of PFAG, Ms Victoria Adongo, who read the petition, "we had a fruitful engagement with members of Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs and Environment, Science and Technology Committees of Parliament to discuss food security issues bothering on Post-Harvest Losses, Plant Breeders Bill and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)".
The hearing offered the opportunity for the CSOs to restate their case against GMOs and to dispel the misinformation that followed the petitions. Mr Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour, Director of Communications of FSG, took the MPs through the UPOV Convention, The WTO TRIPPS Agreement. In addressing them, he was clear on the need for the Select Committee to address the original issues raised by the coalition four years ago, citing clause 23 and 58 as examples of the inappropriate nature of the proposed bill and urged Parliament to ensure that the interest of Ghana's farmers and her bio diversity were not compromised in the bill.
Mr Andoh Baffour also reminded the lawmakers to ensure that any loopholes in the proposed bill that may facilitate biopiracy of Ghana's national flora and fauna should be addressed. To this end he called for a mandatory need to declare the source of the genetic materials used in the research work as is best practice worldwide.
Mr Baffour used the opportunity to remind the august body that there was no mention of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in the entire issues raised by the coalition and asked all stakeholders to cease the pander to the deliberately created perception that the opposition to the bill was based on GMO.
In response to the concerns raised by the coalition, the Chairperson of the Committee, Mr Kyeremanteng Agyarko, who is also the MP for Ayawaso West Wuogon, assured the meeting that the relevant areas of concern raised had been acknowledged and would be given the necessary attention.
He expressed regret that the issues raised had taken so long to resolve however reminded members that a new parliament had been sworn in since the last consultations and assured all stakeholders involved the opportunity to continue to contribute constructively in the collective interest of Ghana.
Over 150 organisations from Africa and around the world have already petitioned Parliament on the Plant Breeder's bill.
The recent petition further buttresses the point that Ghana can protect plant breeder rights without necessarily opting for UPOV 91.
Some organisations and individuals believe that the bill was 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).
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. --GB