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‘Suspend Plants Breeders Bill’

The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has called on the government to suspend the Plant Breeders’ Bill (PBB) indefinitely to allow discussions by parliamentarians, small-scale farmers and all other stakeholders to continue to address their concerns on the bill.

The government must also ensure that the Bio-safety Authority is put into place to actively monitor the activities of the National Bio-safety Committee and its role made public.

In a statement made available to the GNA, the PFAG called for direct discussions between the Select Committee on Constitutional, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs and the association 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 had rightly suspended discussions on the bill for wider stakeholder consultations, some emerging developments with regard to the Plant Breeders’ Bill and the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Ghana was causing discomfort.

The PFAG cited the visit by the Minister 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.

The PFAG said all these were happening despite the fact that the National Bio-safety Authority had not been instituted, as required by law, to ensure adequate protection in the safe development, transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms resulting from biotechnology that might have an adverse effect on health and the environment.

Moreover, it indicated, no public notice had been given by a legally constituted and competent body with the approval of the government to conduct the Bt cowpea and rice trials, nor were Ghanaian citizens or the press aware of the measures that had been taken to ensure public safety and environmental protection against contamination.

The statement also said 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, post-harvest losses, inadequate irrigation facilities and difficulty in accessing credit, particularly by women farmers.

“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 to 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 also said it would continue to use all legal opportunities available to it to make its position known to the Ghanaian citizenry and draw their attention to the dangers in passing the Plant Breeders’ Bill.

Credit: GNA