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Opinions of Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Columnist: Amamoo, Nana Ama

Parliament And The Imminent GMO Judgment Debts!

The Akan
people have a saying that translates as "If you don't know what death
looks like, take a look at a sleeping person". Ghana's Ministers for
Agriculture, the Minister for Justice and MPs will do well to read this
article Happily ever NAFTA: New trade pact would boost corporations and
harm environment [2] [3]. If pressed for time, they should
ponder these paragraphs:

_"…Welcome to NAFTA's unexpected
environmental legacy. Chapter 11 is not well known in the U.S. -- its
tribunals are secret, and Canada and Mexico are the countries that get
sued the most under it. But NAFTA was always meant to be a template for
other trade agreements, and since its mid-'90s enactment it has become
one. As NAFTA's offspring have multiplied around the world, so have
lawsuits like Lone Pine's, where corporations seek damages from
countries whose environmental regulations affect their ability to do

There have been more than 500 cases brought against 95
governments around the world, according to Ilana Solomon, director of
the Responsible Trade Program for the Sierra Club. Germany's decision to
phase out nuclear power plants is being challenged by the Swedish
company Vattenfall. Uruguay's move to add warning labels to cigarette
packages has prompted a suit from Philip Morris.

If the 1890s
[sic]_were about setting a legal precedent that gave corporations the
same rights as people, the 1990s were about adding powers that brought
them more in line with nation states. Today, increasingly, corporations
in one country get to tell governments in another country what to do…"_

In the Plant Breeders' Bill before Parliament, Clause 23 is perhaps
the most outrageous clause introduced to Parliament since the 6th of
March 1957. The offending Clause is easy to understand. Whereas, the
Constitution of Ghana makes even the Human Rights of citizens subject to
the laws of Ghana, the Plant Breeders' right is placed over and above
that of the state. Clause 23 reads:


_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."_

The caution in the Akan proverb
should give them cause to pause and examine the legacy of NAFTA for
Canada and Mexico. And the consequences for 95 other countries, who gave
legal carte blanche to multinational companies who now operate above and
beyond the laws of those countries. Are these trading partners'
intentions benign?

The Mahama Administration in collaboration with
Parliament are leading Ghana into a similar abyss, with Clause 23! As if
we don't have enough judgement debts already! The least they can do is
to delete that clause from the Bill as we petitioned. Otherwise they
will be sparking the engine of the judgement debt-making machine. We
need mass public awareness and participation in such an important and
far-reaching decision.

Nana Ama Amamoo

Director, Research and
Information Department,
Food Sovereignty Ghana

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