Speaker lauded for suspending discussions on Plant Breeders' Bill

The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has commended the Speaker of Parliament for suspending discussions on the Plant Breeders' Bill (PBB).

He has also been lauded for directing the Select Committee on Constitutional, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs to engage in public consultation on the bill.

However, the PFAG has registered its displeasure with some emerging developments regarding the bill and the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Ghana.

Members said they had taken note of the visit by the Ministry of Justice and some members of the Select Committee on Constitutional, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs of the house to the Netherlands to solicit support for the passage of PBB in Ghana.

In a press release in Takoradi, signed by Mr Charles Kwame Nyaaba, the Programme Officer of PFAG, the association also observed that there had been confined field trials of Bt Cowpea and rice in preparation of commercial release.

CSIR education
The group further noted a lopsided and misleading education by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in collaboration with the Ghana Chapter of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) on the merits of GMOs without addressing the concerns of farmers and civil society organisations (CSOs) in Ghana.

"All these are happening despite the fact that the National Bio-safety Authority is not in place as required by law to ensure an adequate level of protection in the field of safe development, transfer, handling and use of GMOs, resulting from biotechnology that might have an adverse effect on health and the environment," the release stressed.

Moreover, it said, neither had any public notice been given by a legally constituted and competent body of the approval of the Ghana government to conduct the Bt cowpea and rice trials nor were Ghanaian citizens or the press aware of what measures had been taken to ensure public safety and environmental protection against contamination.

Major stakeholders
They again indicated that 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 and perennial challenges from post-harvest losses."

The farmers said they had also expressed sentiments over inadequate irrigation facilities, difficulty in accessing credit, particularly by women farmers, lack of mechanisation services, depleting soil fertility, land degradation and loss of biodiversity, lack of extension advice on sustainable methods to maintain soil fertility, as well as lack of initiatives to enable farmers to adapt to the drastic effects of climate change.

The release emphasised that, "These concerns, we believe when dealt with, will do far more to address the food and nutrition insecurity challenges that we,  as a country face.  The government and Parliament should redirect efforts and resources in these areas rather than falling for cheap and quick-fix solutions that have the potential of compromising the food sovereignty in Ghana."

 

By: Akwasi Ampratwum Mensah 

Date: Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Source: http://graphic.com.gh