Civil society groups appeal against Plant Breeders’ Bill

CIVIL society organisations (CSOs) have urgently appealed to parliamentarians not to pass the Plant Breeders’ Bill because it would amount to surrendering the country’s sovereignty.

They said the bill, as it is now, when passed would give seed breeders unlimited powers to the disadvantage of the smallholder farmers.

Right of Breeders
Section 23 of the Plant Breeders’ Bill states: “A plant breeder’s 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 mineral.”

Speaking at a day’s workshop for members of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana on the topic, “The Plant Breeders’ Bill – What farmers should know”, Mr Yaw Opoku of Food Sovereignty Ghana said the bill was a threat to the livelihood of Ghanaians because “the government has no control over the pricing and type of  seeds the seed companies will be selling and whatever the breeders will be doing”.

“This means that the government will not have any control over those who will bring seeds into the country. It is like putting your head, eyes, mouth and thinking power into somebody’s kitchen. It means whatever he wants to do to you, because of your stomach, he will do to you. It means you have no control of yourself,” Mr Opoku said.

He said it was disgraceful and shameful that “our parliamentarians will forget everything and pass this law which gives total control over seeds in the hands of foreigners. As a country, we are selling our birthright”.

Mr Opoku explained to the farmers that since Ghana had joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO), it was mandatory for her to pass, among others, the Plant Breeders’ Bill to ensure that breeders had intellectual property over the seeds or plants they produced.

He said with the bill, a farmer was not allowed to replant, propagate, sell or market without the breeder’s concern. 

Contributing, the Executive Director of the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD), Mr Ben Guri, said the Plant Breeders’ Bill was at the consideration stage in Parliament, yet there was no opportunity for small-scale farmers to have their voice heard on the bill.

The workshop was, therefore, an opportunity for the farmers to understand what the bill sought to do, so that they would not be left in the dark.

He said the bill would lead to a take-over of the seed business by corporate seed and chemical companies, a development which would result in the loss of jobs by small-scale farmers.

Small-scale farmers
For his part, the Deputy Chief Executive of Food Sovereignty Ghana, Mr Duke Tagoe, said with the bill, small-scale farmers would become labourers to commercial farmers, since they would not be able to compete with commercial farmers.

He said the idea was to edge out small-scale farmers who held the key to the livelihood of the Ghanaian.

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