Parliamentarians cautioned against Plant Breeders Bill

parliamentMr Jason Tutu, Communications Lead of Food Sovereignty of Ghana, a food advocacy group, on Wednesday called on parliamentarians to ponder the threat the Plant Breeders Bill (PBB) would bring to the country.

He therefore tasked them to consider the major threat the bill poses on the environment, health, biodiversity, national security and the sovereignty of the people.

Mr Tutu made the call in a speech to mark World Food Day, which fell on October, 15.

He alleged that the bill was smuggled to parliament “by unseen hands and particularly, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, known by its French acronym-Union Internationale pour la protection des obtentions végétales.

“The Agribusiness Trans-National Corporations, (TNCs), will not release GMOs (Genetically modified organisms) into Ghana until the Plant Breeders Bill is in place. This is because the Plant Breeders Bill protects the TNCs’ Intellectual Property Rights, (IPR) or Intellectual Property.

“It is the IPRs that will give the TNCs monopoly control over Ghana’s agriculture. Some have called this colonialism… intellectual property. The Plant Breeders Bill is a trade agreement that allows the Agribusiness TNCs monopoly control of Ghana’s agriculture through the use of Intellectual Property rights,” he said.

Mr Tutu said PBB would allow corporations to limit what Ghana’s government could do, while Ghana’s government would lose power to limit what corporations could do within the country.

He referred to Clause 23 of the PBB that allows foreign corporations to govern in Ghana, which 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.”

He said if Ghana passes the PBB it gives away control of its agriculture, and control of its own food supply for nothing but empty promises.

He said: “The Plant Breeders Bill makes a gift of Ghana’s land and agriculture to the Agribusiness TNCs. With this law, the TNCs can flood Ghana with GMOs and demand Ghana pay the price they set.

“Many of Ghana’s politicians and scientists think the PBB will bring investment. All investment it brings will be extractive investment, growing huge monocultures of pesticide-saturated crops for export. Any new seeds developed by Ghanaian scientists will ultimately be owned by the Agribusiness TNCs who have the money, and power under the PBB, to acquire whatever they want, and take the profits out of Ghana.”

Mr Tutu said the PBB does not consider the rights of indigenous farmers. “Indeed whilst it puts the rights of the corporate plant breeder above the laws of Ghana, the rights of the Ghanaian farmer are placed under the discretion of the Minister of Agriculture. The PBB makes it a criminal offence for a farmer to sell market or propagate any seed that even through open seed propagation can be found on his farm without authorisation of the breeder”.

He said already Monsanto, along with Syngenta, DuPont, and other Agribusiness TNCs are buying up African seed companies.

“The Plant Breeders Bill permits and encourages Agribusiness TNCs to pirate Ghana’s seeds in this same way, forcing Ghanaians to buy them back. This is why Ghana’s farmers and scientists can never profit from this bill. The Agribusiness TNCs will own and claim all rights to the farmers’ seeds.

“GMOs are a poor option for investors, certainly not worth giving up Ghana’s sovereignty to corporations, as the Plant Breeders Bill will force Ghana to do. Portfolio 21, a US based investment service has prepared a document explaining why GM farming is a poor option for investors.”

He said the financial gains, which farmers make through increased yields, are offset by increased spending on patented seeds, fertilizer, and herbicides or pesticides, leading to a net decrease in income for all but the largest mega-farms.

He said these higher input costs are especially damaging when small, more marginal farmers experience crop failure, adding that elevated levels of bankruptcy and consolidation have frequently occurred following the deployment of GM crops.

“Perhaps the most pervasive argument for GM crops is centred on the message that these crops are needed to feed the world.

“The underlying assumptions of this argument, however, are simply incorrect. At current levels of global production, there is enough food for every person on earth to have 3,000 calories per day.

“Let Ghana govern Ghana! Save Ghana’s sovereignty and our food supply! Defeat the Plant Breeders Bill,” he demanded.

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