Business News of Tuesday, 10 February 2015
The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has called on government to suspend indefinitely the Plant Breeders’ Bill (PBB) for dialogue between Parliament, small scale farmers and all other stakeholders to address public concerns of the bill.
Government must also ensure that the Bio-safety Authority is put into place and its work made public in actively monitoring the activities of the National Bio-safety Committee.
In a statement made available to the GNA, the PFAG called for direct discussion between the Select Committee on Constitutional, Parliamentary and Legal affairs and the Peasant Farmers in Ghana to address the concerns of small scale farmers, including the traditional rights to select, store and share seeds.
The PFAG said while Parliament has rightly suspended discussions on the bill for wider stakeholder consultations, some emerging developments regarding the Plant Breeders’ Bill and the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms in Ghana is causing discomfort.
PFAG cited the visit by the Ministry of Justice and some members of the Select Committee on Constitutional, Parliamentary and Legal affairs of Parliament to the Netherlands to solicit support for the passage of the Plant Breeders’ Bill in Ghana, and the confined field trials of Bt Cowpea and rice in preparation of commercial release.
In addition, the misleading education by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in collaboration with the Ghana Chapter of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) on the merits of GMOs without addressing the concerns of farmers and CSOs in Ghana
The PFAG said all these are happening despite the fact that the National Bio-safety Authority is not in place as required by law to ‘ensure an adequate level of protection in the field of safe development, transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms resulting from biotechnology that may have an adverse effect on health and the environment.
Moreover, no public notice has been given by a legally constituted and competent body of the approval of the Ghana government to conduct the Bt cowpea and rice trials, nor are Ghanaian citizens or the press aware of what measures have been taken to ensure public safety and environmental protection against contamination.
As small scale farmers and major stakeholders in the food production systems in Ghana, we have expressed our concerns on what are much more urgent issues affecting food production in Ghana, including poor feeder roads, lack of storage facilities, postharvest losses, inadequate irrigation facilities and difficulty in accessing credit, particularly by women farmers, among others.
“These concerns we believe, when dealt with, will do far more to address the food and nutrition insecurity challenges that we face as a country. The Government and Parliament should redirect efforts and resources in these areas rather than falling for cheap and quick-fix solutions that have the potential of compromising the food sovereignty in Ghana,” PFAG said.
PFAG said it would continue to use all legal opportunities available to make its position known to the Ghanaian citizenry and to draw their attention to the dangers in passing the Plant Breeders’ Bill as it stands.