Ghana: Farmer groups unhappy with passage of Plant Variety Protection Bill

Some farmer groups have kicked against the Plant Variety Protection Bill, which was passed by Parliament on Wednesday, 4th November 2020.

They include the Peasant Farmers Association, General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), Vegetarians Association of Ghana (VAG), and the Rastafarian Council of Ghana.

The farmer groups say the Bill, which was reintroduced in Parliament 2020, was done without taking into account any of the objections raised against it for the past seven years.

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In an interview with Citi Business News, General Secretary of the General Agricultural Workers Union, Edward Kariwe said, the Bill, which was first presented to Parliament as the Plant Breeders Bill, undermines Ghana’s sovereignty and will weaken the agricultural sector at large.

“Because of the ecological differences, one uniform seed does not necessarily apply everywhere so it allows for diversity. What this bill will cause is that, there will now be uniformity and with uniformity, it kills diversity. So, this Plant Variety Protection Bill is seeking to introduce something of that nature and it destroys the ecosystem and the biodiversity.

“When the biodiversity is destroyed, there are many more living organisms that are also dependent on the existing ecosystem and that disempowers everybody and it will undermine the abilities of this country to produce our own food and be food secured,” he said.

The purpose of the Plant Variety Protection Bill is to establish a legal framework to protect the rights of breeders of new varieties of plants or plant groupings; and to promote the breeding of new varieties of plants to improve the quantity, quality and cost of food, fuel and raw materials for industry.

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According to the Agric Ministry, the Bill also seeks to acknowledge the achievements of breeders of new varieties by making available to them an exclusive right on the basis of a set of uniform or clearly defined principles.

Even though the content of the Bill is still unknown to farmers, Edward Kariwe, believes the Bill after it is assented to by the President, will not be beneficial to the ordinary farmer as it does not allow farmers to sell and exchange seeds from protected varieties.

“This Bill is still seeking to make it criminal for a farmer to transfer the seeds to your brother after you have acquired the seed from the so-called commercial seed producer because that particular commercial farmer has a patent right to it. That patent right enjoins you not to transfer it. If you transfer it, it becomes a crime,” he explained.

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Speaking to Citi Business News, National President of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, Abdul-Rahman Mohammed, also accused Parliament of betraying them and threatened that; they will explore all avenues possible to ensure the plight of farmers is addressed in the Bill.

“We have made appeal attempts to Government since, 2013 asking them not to pass the bill because it’s not going to help us, it is only going to benefit foreign companies, not Ghanaian Companies. We will continue to champion our cause.

“My request to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is that he should not assent to the bill. It is not too late, even though we think that Parliament has disappointed because we elected them to represent us,” he said.

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