The Agricultural Sovereignty Ghana (ASG), a social movement, has urged Ghanaians to rise and reject the Plan Breeders Bill (PBB), in its current form, saying the bill when passed, would impoverish the local plant breeder as well as collapse institutions undertaking research into plant breeding.
At a press conference yesterday in Accra, the convenor, Raymond Okrofu, said though Parliament had suspended debate on the bill, the government was said to have appended its signature to the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) Act in Arusha, Tanzania on July 6 where the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Act was considered. The Act allows Africa, as a region under World Trade Organisation (WTO), to accept the Union for the Protection of Variety of Plants (UPOV) 1991 Protocol that obliges countries which sign the protocol to demonstrate the UPOV 1991 in their country.
“It is the view of ASG that UPOV 1991 or its Ghanaian version, labelled as PBB, are inimical to the sovereignty of Ghana and not in the interest of Ghanaian agriculture. The memorandum to the PBB states unambiguously that it is only meant to fulfill Ghana’s obligation to the WTO under its Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). It is therefore not in the interest of Ghanaians and Ghanaian agriculture but only to satisfy the dictates of WTO,” Mr. Okrofu pointed out.
He said under the PBB or the ARIPO Protocol, any Ghanaian by himself or by employing another person, could take a seed from Ghana or anywhere in the world, and use traditional or genetic engineering to transform it into a new plant variety. The breeder could then acquire a right to register it under patent law as his or her own, and control its use as a seed.
Mr. Okrofu stated that the breeder, in order to protect his patent, would insert terminator genes in the seed to make it impossible for any farmer to exchange it (the seed) with another as a planting material.
He said the farmer, as a result of that unfair treatment, had to buy new seeds every year to plant while the breeder, whether Ghanaian or foreigner, would file a Statutory Declaration at the Registrar General’s Department of how much his seed would sell on the market.
“If the breeder is a foreign investor, the profit earned at the end of the year is repatriated in foreign currency”, he said.
According to Mr. Okrofu, “the right of a breeder to a registered plant variety in Ghana takes 20 years and within that period no Ghanaian farmer has the patent right to plant, multiply, export or register the seed without the authority of the breeder”.
He said it was in view of this that the ASG was urging Ghanaians to support it to fight the injustice about to be visited on the poor farmer and the research institutions in the country.