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General News of Thursday, 15 December 2016

Source: GNA

Food Sovereignty Ghana congratulates Akufo-Addo

Food Sovereignty Ghana(FSG), a food advocacy group, has congratulated Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as President-Elect in the December 7 Presidential election and President John Dramani Mahama for gracefully conceding defeat.

This FSG said had once more, ensured that Ghana’s transition in a change of government had been as peaceful as it ought to be, despite a bitter and acrimonious campaign.

A statement issued in Accra and copied to the Ghana News Agency said: “We thank and congratulate all Ghanaians, especially all those who took the extra needed steps to see that the right things are done, the Electoral Commission, the security agencies, the media, the faith-based and civil society organisations.

“As we congratulate Nana for his well-deserved victory in the just ended elections, we take this opportunity to cry out and call on him, as a matter of high priority, to consider the systematic application of agroecology and sustainable agriculture as a crucial national challenge.

“We urgently need to tackle this in the face of climate change and our survival needs. We need to tackle this for the sake of ensuring the sanctity of human health, environment, for our own sake and for the sake of future generations.

“We need to tackle this in order to reverse the dwindling incomes of small household farmers, the backbones of Ghana’s agriculture, who are almost half of the entire population of Ghana.”

The statement called on Nana Akufo-Addo to uphold the rights as enshrined in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), of which Ghana was a signatory.

“In particular, the farmers’ right to use, sell, save and exchange farm-saved seeds, is currently under a serious threat by the Plant Breeders’ Bill, 2103, as well as the Arusha Plant Protection Protocol, which also awaits ratification by Parliament.

“The Arusha PVP is so bad that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food recently raised concern in an open letter addressed to the Member States of the African Regional Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, dated 24 November 2016.”

It said it was about time Ghana sought local solutions to Ghanaian problems rather than allowing foreign giant agricultural and chemical corporations to impose their solutions to their advantage for profit maximisation, and at the expense of poor Ghanaian farmers.

It said this was a crucial issue and called on Nana Akufo-Addo and the Ghanaian public to keep a keen eye on the fact of the illegitimacy of the bill.

“This was beautifully highlighted in the petition presented by more than 50 international CSOs and NGOs. A reading of that particular petition shows clearly that the accompanying Memorandum to the Plant Breeders’ Bill sent to Parliament by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, was at best, based on false premises, or at worst, designed to mislead the House in favour of the Bill. It raises more questions than answers.”

The statement said in the said Memorandum accompanying the Bill, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs. Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, dated 28th May, 2013 states: “The Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which resulted from the negotiations of the Uruguay Round requires contracting parties to protect varieties either by patent or by an effective sui generis system of protection or by a hybrid of these two systems, which is the plant breeders rights system.”

“Here is the catch, notice that without any explanation or justification for such a strange decision to take Ghana to UPOV, she goes further to indicate: ‘Clause 1 of the Bill defines the scope of application of the Bill.

Ghana has opted to apply the requirement for compliance with the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of December 2, 1961 and subsequently revised on November 10th, 1972, on 23rd October, 1978 and on 19th March, 1991’.”

The statement said the fundamental question that needed to be answered in the interest of accountability and national security, is, “if according to WTO rules, Ghana has the right to develop its own unique system of plant breeders rights protection that is suitable to our developmental needs, what informed or provoked the decision, contrary to obvious national interests, to opt to apply the requirement for compliance with the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of December 2, 1961”.

It said the African Union model should have been the option, which includes language that compels any entity or individual who provides germplasm resources to any foreign entity, organisation or individual in cooperation to conduct research, shall make an application and submit a national benefit-sharing plan.

“Considering the numerous objections from experts all over the world, that UPOV benefits the big multinational seed corporations, and that a developing country like Ghana stands to lose by its adoption; the ubiquitous problem of corruption and the track records of the corporate lobby behind the UPOV bill, we strongly smell a rat.

“We do not only demand its withdrawal from Parliament, and a replacement with a sui generis plant variety protection system, but also, investigations into why we came so close as a people to be sold out to foreign seed companies, and draw the appropriate lessons. For the same reasons, we... call for the total rejection of the Arusha New Plants Protection Protocol, currently pending Parliamentary ratification, as just another way of smuggling into our laws, the same UPOV convention without public scrutiny.”

The statement said: “It is against this background that those of us who saw just how close Ghana came to a new form of colonialism led by rich multinational corporations through the control of our seeds! We are happy to welcome change. We have a huge sigh of relief, as we contemplate our prospects with the new administration.

“The Plant Breeders’ Bill was postponed recently. Majority Leader... Alban Bagbin assured Parliament that ‘it will be brought to the house next year’. It is our hope that it will be completely withdrawn and replaced with a sui generis plant breeders’ and farmers’ rights protection bill.

“Ghanaians voted for change. Change has come. It is time to change the obnoxious UPOV-compliant Plant Breeders’ Bill,” it said.

“Our congratulatory message would be incomplete, if we do not end with an appeal to your incoming administration to place an indefinite moratorium on the cultivation and sale of genetically modified foods in Ghana until the science of GM foods and human health, as well as environmental impact, has been thoroughly studied and cleared as safe by independent science rather than corporate-driven, profit-oriented scientists and regulators, ridden to the core with conflicts-of-interest.

“We are happy for change also because President Mahama failed to heed to our numerous calls.”