Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, on Friday, assured Ghanaians that government would not support the development of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that would affect farmers and farm produce.
‘We will not sit in this country and introduce an agricultural system that will harm our farmers and farm produce.’
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng gave the assurance at a national stakeholder workshop on Ghana’s Plant Breeders Rights Bill (PBR) in Accra, which was organised by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in collaboration with the Registrar General’s Department under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s (AG) Department.
The workshop which attracted stakeholders from Civil Society Organisation (CSO’s), Research Scientists, the Media and Parliamentarians, sought to reactivate the discussions on the Plant Breeders’ Right Bill as part of the process leading to its passage into law.
He explained that the PBR was never about GMOs, but rather a legal framework that seeks among others, to secure and protect the Patent Rights of scientists and growers of new variety of crops and seeds to improve yields, had strong resistance to drought, pest and the climate.
The Bill, he said, was therefore an Intellectual Property component that recognised breeders and growers for their efforts by encouraging them to develop new varieties of plants, and constituted an important ingredient in the quest to transform agriculture in Ghana in particular, and Africa in general.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng explained that the Bill could not be passed into law by the previous Parliament before of its dissolution, giving reasons such as the concerns raised by some Civil Society Groups at the time, over the possibility that terminator seeds been introduced.
Critics say terminator seeds cannot be replanted after harvesting.
‘This is something our scientists would never do, but it is being done outside, and that is why Ghana established the National Biosafety Authority, through the Biosafety Authority Act 831 , 2011 to ensure that we do not have GMO’s or terminator seeds in Ghana.
We are only going to introduce improved varieties of seeds or organisms, otherwise it would be in contradiction of what we stand for as a country.’
He urged CSOs to engage scientists, the AG and other relevant Ministries to understand what was actually being done, to be able to fight for the farmers.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said although the government has promised to increase research funding to enable scientists to carry out their work, but in the interim, they needed the Intellectual Property Rights to enable farmers to access funding from other sources.
Prof. Hans Adu-Dapaah, the Head of the Plant Breeding and Technology Programme, CSIR, College of Science and Technology, assessing the scientific and the technical considerations, concluded that the Ghana Plant Breeders Bill was a positive development which seeks to address the interest of growers as well as promote agricultural productivity.
The benefits of the bill, he said, cut across several sectors of the economy and would promote national development.
According to him the bill could provide benefits at the global level by removing barriers to trade in crop varieties, thereby increasing both domestic and international market scope.
He was also of the opinion that the Breeders Bill holds the keys to unlock the potential of government agenda for food and jobs creation.
Prof Adu-Dapaah therefore appealed to Parliament to give urgent consideration to the passage of the bill since it had the potential to empower farmers to access new markets and attract sector investments in plant breeding.
He however identified lack of adequate and sustainable sources of funding for research, lack of insensitive for breeders, poor conditions of service and encroachment fields as challenges confronting research institutions, and called for private sector partnership and support.
Mrs Jemima Oware, the Registrar General, was hopeful that the workshop would provide stakeholders with knowledge and information to motivate the passage of the Plant Breeders Bill into law without any further delay.
Ghana, recognising the need for a legal framework to support the protection of the rights of breeders of new varieties and to promote the development of varieties to boost food production to feed the growing population, initiated a draft bill in 2000, but failed to gain consensus in the subsequent attempts to push for its passage by Parliament, because the regime was new and knowledge of the system was limited among stakeholders.