Business News of 2014-05-19

Accepting GMOs amounts to re-colonization of economy - PFAG

The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) says accepting the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) will amount to re-colonization of the economy and make farmers dependent on foreign corporations for seeds at unaffordable prices.

PFAG said, “The implication of accepting GMOs in Ghana and trade with the European Union (EU) is simply opening our markets to them (EU) but Ghana will not be able to export to EU market because GMOs are banned in Europe.”

This was contained in a petition presented to government through the Northern Regional Coordinating Council and the Northern Regional Department of Agriculture in Tamale on Friday by PFAG, ActionAid Ghana and the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD), to register the displeasure of northern Ghana farmers against the adoption of GMOs and the current form of the Plant Breeders Bill (PBB) being considered by Parliament.

The presentation of the petition was preceded by a procession through some streets of Tamale by about 600 smallholder farmers carrying placards with inscriptions suggesting that accepting GMOs was not the best option for the country, as well as Parliament to modify the PBB to safeguard the interest of farmers.

Mr. Mohammed Adam Nashiru, President of PFAG, who read the petition, said the action by PFAG, ActionAid Ghana and CIKOD to present a petition to the government was in response to the call by the Speaker of Parliament for more consultations on the PBB and the GMOs.

Mr. Nashiru said several animal studies indicated health risks such as infertility, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, changes in major organs and immune problems being associated with GMOs, the reason it should not be adopted by the country.

He said the passage of the PBB in its current form, which demanded royalties from farmers as well as discouraged government’s regulation of the seeds industry, would allow multinational seed and chemical companies to take over the country’s seed market from Ghanaian seed producers and indigenous farmers.

The petition, therefore, recommended a legislation to regulate corporations’ access to biological resources, knowledge and technology to ensure that “Access shall be allowed only with the prior informed consent of the local communities and the state.”

It said such legislation should be based on the Africa Union’s African Model Law on the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources.

It said smallholder farming must be excluded from infringement actions contained in the PBB to avoid criminal sanctions against smallholder farmers adding “Farmers’ rights should be enshrined in the bill to balance the equation since rights and obligations are mutually inclusive.”

The petition said, “There is need to establish a bio-safety authority with proper representation of farmers and consumer groups to uphold strong regulatory requirements on GMOs to ensure monitoring and take major decisions on PBB and GMOs in the interest of the public.”

It called on the government and Parliament to come out with a new bill that protected smallholder farmers, seeds and germplasm, consumers and the country’s control of her agriculture and the economy.

Alhaji Alhassan Issahaku, Northern Regional Coordinating Director, who received the petition on behalf of the Northern Regional Minister, assured that it would be forwarded to the appropriate authorities for consideration.