Grassroots anti-GMO movements in Ghana, including the group Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), are vehemently protesting the Plant Breeders’ Bill, a piece of legislation that if passed could make it very difficult for small farmers to retain control over their seeds.
This bill is designed to protect plant breeders’ patent right and financial interests in the crop varieties they design, which includes GMOs. Anyone using the patented seeds would be required to obtain authorization from the breeder in order to produce, sell, or stock the seeds for the purpose of sale.
The language of the bill will also give the plant breeder rights over “varieties which are not clearly distinguishable from the protected variety,” as well as “a variety which is essentially derived from the protected variety,” with several stipulations.
Although there is a clause stating that regulations will take into account farmers’ personal use of the seeds for non-commercial purposes on their own land, this will be weighed against the “legitimate interests of breeders.”
Food Sovereignty Ghana is very concerned that this bill will essentially “make it illegal for farmers to engage in their age-old practice of freely saving, using, sharing and selling seeds.” FSG Chairperson, Ali-Masmadi Jehu-Appiah, stated:
“They will not be permitted to freely save, share, or sell seeds from previous seasons for planting in subsequent seasons. Farmers using saved seeds may be required to pay royalties to the multinational breeders. Saved seeds may even be confiscated and destroyed. In this respect, the Plant Breeders’ Bill literally outlaws the business of farming. The bill will reduce employment and the number of jobs.”
He added, “The bill will require farmers to buy new seeds every year and buy the toxic chemicals that are required for use with these corporate seeds. This will drive many farmers into debt… Right now Ghanaian grown food is relatively free of chemicals. This bill will destroy that.”
Chairman of Ghana’s Convention People’s Party (CPP), Samia Nkrumah, has also expressed concerns about the bill, and is asking that Parliament not approve the bill, “to send a clear warning to multinational companies that Ghana’s answer to malnutrition is not bioengineering, but alleviating poverty.”
The Plant Breeders’ Bill is on the schedule to be reviewed by Parliament on January 28. We hope that the rights of small farmers prevail.
-The Alternative Daily