Scientists, farmers and other stakeholders supporting poverty reduction and agricultural improvement in Ghana, have submitted a petition to the Speaker of Parliament to reactivate the passage of the Plant Breeders Bill (PBB), which is on hold.
According to the petitioners, there is an urgent need to pass the PBB in Ghana in order to foster innovation so that plant breeders develop better varieties of crops for use by Ghana’s farmers.
The petitioners include the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) of the University of Ghana, the Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen, the Ghana Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Biotechnology and Nuclear, Agriculture Research Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and the Cornell Alliance for Science, Cornell University.
A statement issued by the group and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Monday said the petition, which could be viewed online at wacci.edu.gh/content/ghana-plant-breeders-bill has been signed by more than 200 persons, many of whom are national experts and practitioners.
It said these crops might be drought-tolerant, climate resilient, higher yielding, pest or disease-resistant or have other benefits such as enhanced nutrient content.
The statement noted that the petition was produced and backed by an unprecedented coalition of scientific and farming organisations in Ghana, illustrating the importance attached by experts to the need to pass the Bill.
It said the coalition was assembled partly in response to certain NGOs which have spread conspiracy theories and misinformation about the Bill in an attempt to prevent MPs from passing it.
“This Bill is an important measure to combat poverty in our country. Our farmers desperately need access to improved varieties of our staple crops. This is essential if we are to continue to modernise agriculture” remarked Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, a former Director-General of the CSIR and one of the supporters of the petition.
Prof Alhassan condemned the activities of anti-development NGOs who it appears prefer to promote the continuation of subsistence agriculture and associated rural poverty.
Prof Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, Director of WACCI of the University of Ghana, indicated in his comment accompanying the petition to the Speaker of Parliament that “If the development of new varieties in Ghana is not underpinned by science and technology, the country will not attain food and nutrition security in our lifetime”.
“Passage of the Ghana Plant Breeders Bill will encourage investments for the development of superior varieties of staple crops urgently needed in farmers’ fields to spark a green revolution in the country. Let us support the Ghana Plant Breeders Bill,” he added.
Dr Hans Adu-Dapaah, a renowned Plant Breeder and former Director of the CSIR-CRI remarks: “Breeding takes a long time and a lot of resources to develop varieties. Efforts of breeders have to be recognised and rewarded.”
“This will encourage development of more improved varieties tolerant to diseases, pests, heat, drought; for use by farmers to mitigate the effects of climate change”.
A post-graduate student in Plant Breeding at the University of Ghana, Prince Kpentey said: “This bill if passed will be a great incentive protecting my rights as a young upcoming Plant breeder.”
The petition also pointed out that Ghana is at risk of falling behind its competitors in the region without a plant breeders’ protection regime.
It said eight other countries – Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe – have already passed a PBB.
Kenya had registered hundreds of new plant varieties, which contrasts with the slow release of plant varieties in Ghana.