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General News of Friday, 31 October 2014

Source: GNA

Gov't should withdraw Plant Breeders Bill - CPP

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The Convention People's Party (CPP) has called on the Mahama Administration to withdraw, what it called “the disgraceful Plant Breeders Bill (PBB) submitted to Parliament by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice”.

The party said the PBB was sent under the guise of meeting World Trade Organisation (WTO) obligations.

“Failing that, we call on Parliament to roundly reject the Bill in its current form,” a statement issued by Samia Yaba Nkrumah, CPP Chairman in Accra on Thursday, and copied to Ghana News Agency said.

The statement said: “The whole world is watching. And we call on every Ghanaian who eats food to take a keen interest in the protection of the integrity of our food and water resources, the sovereignty of Ghana, and to ask the politicians behind the promotion of the Plant Breeders Bill these troubling questions:

“Why is it that even the rights of citizens of Ghana are defined in the Constitution as "SUBJECT TO THE LAWS OF GHANA" but Clause 23 of the Plant Breeders Bill confers the rights of the Plant Breeder to be INDEPENDENT OF THE LAWS OF GHANA?”

The statement made reference to Ghana Plant Breeders Bill, 2013 Publications | Parliament of Ghana

It said Clause 23: “Measures regulating commerce said: 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.

“Why should Parliament attempt to pass a law that encourages bio-piracy, in that the Plant Breeder is not obliged to disclose how and where they obtain a gene and duly compensate the farmers, the district council, or the country for the use of these genes, but rather criminalise poor farmers whose organic farms might be contaminated by the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) registered by the Plant Breeder?

It made reference to Clause 58 of the Plant Breeder's Bill, which says: " A person who willfully (a) offers for sale, sells or markets the propagating material of a variety protected in Ghana; (b) markets propagating material of a variety protected in Ghana without the registered variety denomination; or (c) uses the registered variety denomination of a variety protected in Ghana for another variety of the same plant species or closely related species likely to cause confusion commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than two thousand penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not more than two years or to both."

The statement asked: “How is that that a Parliament which is supposed to represent Ghanaians entertains a bill that surrenders our sovereignty over our health, the environment, etc., to foreign multinational corporations, as we see in Clause 23, which puts their rights above the laws of Ghana, but puts the rights of Ghanaian farmers at the discretion of the Minister of Food and Agriculture?

It made reference to: Clause 21 (2) (b): "The Minister shall make Regulations to restrict a plant breeder right in relation to any variety of agricultural plants within reasonable limits. (b) permit farmers to make personal use on their own holdings for purposes of propagation of the product of harvest, which they have obtained by planting on their own holdings, the protected variety or a variety provided for under paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (4) of section 20.

“Why it that the MEMORANDUM to the Bill acknowledges that is: "The Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights,) which resulted from the negotiations of the Uruguay Round requires contracting parties to protect varieties either by patent or by an effective generic system of protection or by a hybrid of these two systems, which is the plant breeders’ rights system. The plant breeder rights system permits farmers to save and replant seed and provides them with the right to use protected varieties as a source of further research and breeding activities."

At the same time, in the same MEMORANDUM, it states that: "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 23th October, 1978 and on 19th March, 1991," the statement said.

It said Ghana has full flexibility under the WTO to develop an effective ‘sui generis’ system for plant variety protection… to develop a unique system that suits its needs.

The statement said in view of this, it is truly unfortunate and even irrational that instead of designing a Plant Variety Protection regime that reflects the agricultural framework and realities of Ghana as some other countries have done (e.g. India, Thailand, Ethiopia), the country is choosing to adopt and be bound by UPOV (Union for the protection of new varieties) 1991 without any concrete evidence or impact assessment of the necessity and impacts of adopting such a regime.

It said: “As a member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources we expect Ghana to take steps to realize farmers’ rights to use, sell, save and exchange farm-saved seeds, to protect their traditional knowledge and to allow their participation in national decision-making."

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