Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) has filed a writ against the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) and the Ministry of Food & Agriculture MoFA for an interim injunction to restrain the defendants from the release and commercialization of genetically-modified cowpeas and rice until the provisions of the Biosafety Act are expressly and fully obeyed.
‘We are not only calling for an injunction on the commercialization of GM Rice and Bt cowpeas, but on all GM crops until the National Biosafety Authority is in place.
‘We have taken this action as a result of the fact that Ghanaians are being constantly bombarded with news items containing false claims that the attempts to impose GM rice and beans on our precious “waakye” or the famous fried plantain and beans, ‘red red,’ are being done in accordance with the law,’
Referring to Section 13 of the Biosafety Act, 2011, Act 831, it said only the National Biosafety Authority has such a power to authorize the commercial release of GM foods in Ghana.
The law states:
‘A person shall not, without the prior written approval of the Authority, import or place on the market a genetically modified organism.
‘Now, we all know that the National Biosafety Authority does not even exist, because it is yet to be inaugurated. No appointments have been made and approved even for it, so under what authority are those undertaking these dangerous experiments doing so, and who is supervising them?
Apparently, even the National Biosafety Committee has no power of its own apart from the authority of the Minister for Industries, Science and Technology, MIST.’
It said Ghana is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, adding that Article 23 of the Protocol requires parties, on their own and in cooperation with other States and international bodies, to promote and facilitate public awareness and education, including access to information, regarding the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms (LMOs).
It also requires parties to consult the public in the decision-making process to make public the final decision taken and to inform public about the means of access to the Biosafety Clearing-House.
It further referred to Section 11 (1) of the Act which states that: “A person shall not conduct a contained or confined use activity involving genetically modified organisms or their development without the written approval of the Authority.’
In Section 42 (2) it states that “The Authority shall publish notices of final decisions concerning applications made under this Act in the Gazette and electronic and print media in order to ensure public awareness and participation. This is a far cry from the secrecy surrounding the experiments currently going on in Ghana.
‘We maintain that none of these provisions are being respected. It even appears that the so-called National Biosafety Committee is being run from the office of the Minister of Industries, Science and Technology. We were extremely surprised to read from the reaction of Mr. Eric Okoree, Secretary to the National Biosafety Committee, stating inter alia, that I have printed the request and submitted it to the Minister’s Secretariat for his information as per the Civil Service Procedure. He will minute it down to the Secretariat for action to be taken.”
Several weeks after calling for copies of the documents on risk assessment and risk management and benefits supporting the application by the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), for the approval of field trials of Bt cow peas submitted for approval, no such document has been forthcoming. Meanwhile this is the sort of information that must be voluntarily be made available to members of the Ghanaian public in accordance with the law.
‘We find the situation of lawlessness surrounding the imposition of GMOs on Ghanaians most alarming as Biosafety is a matter of life and death.’
By Samuel Boadi
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