The Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has given the assurance that the Plant Breeders Bill will not promote Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the country.
It said what the bill sought to do was to create an environment for Ghanaians who wanted to breed plants through scientific methods to do so and also to earn royalties for their creations.
Addressing a press conference in Accra, the chairman of the committee, Mr Alban Bagbin, said talented Ghanaian farmers and scientists had created new varieties of crops which were being smuggled out of the country and reproduced without the developers of the varieties deriving any pecuniary benefits from their innovations.
He said Ghanaian scientists had developed new and improved varieties of cocoa and maize which needed to be protected.
Therefore, he said what the bill sought to do was to create an environment for the new varieties to be developed and to protect the “intellectual property” of those who developed the new and improved varieties.
“This has nothing to do with GMOs,” he said and advised Food Sovereignty, a non-governmental organisation and others to “stop misinforming the public and creating fear and panic.”
He said most developing countries were already far advanced in plant breeding and said the new varieties of tomatoes and onions from Burkina Faso were produced from plant breeding.
Mr Bagbin said the changing rainfall patterns, the destruction of crops by pests and other occurrences which threatened food security, called for the “use of our brains to create seeds which would resist all these.”
“We are talking about innovation, creativity. These are the bills that allow individuals to innovate. That is what the bill is about. Already in Ghana, plant breeding is going on. What is worrying is the attempt to link the Plant Breeders Bill to Genetically Modified Organisms. What is more worrying is the attempt to suggest that GMOs are killers and we should shut our doors to it,” he said.
“I am convinced that we are doing everything to protect the interest of Ghanaians and that quality, healthy and nutritious food will be available to Ghanaians,” he said.
The Deputy Attorney-General, Dr Dominic Ayine, said the bill was not about GMOs and did not seek to create a legal framework for GMOs to thrive.
“It is about the protection of intellectual property of Ghanaian plant breeders,” he said, and defined intellectual property as “Information with commercial value.”
He intimated that the bill, if passed, would make it obligatory for anyone who reproduced or used a seed developed by a Ghanaian for research purposes to pay royalties.
“If we can protect the patent rights of inventors of machines and music, why can’t we protect the intellectual property of Ghanaians who create seeds,” he asked.
A deputy minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Ahmed Alhassan Yakubu, said Ghana needed to find plants that fit into the changing environment.
“The food security of our country is key. The fact that people can eat better today does not mean we have food security. We should not confuse the Plant Breeders Bill with GMOs,” he said.
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