Ghana peasant farmers have reacted angrily to government’s moves to introduce a new law promoting the production of genetically modified seeds and animal breeds without adequate consultations.
The farmers say they want the government to suspend the passing of the Plant Breeders Bill until consultations were made on aspects of the proposed law, which they feel threatens the survival of local farmers.
The Bill, among other things, seeks to guarantee genetic diversity of food crops and increase production levels.
The government argues these measures would ensure food security and raise household income of farm workers who constitute about 90 percent of Ghana’s agricultural workforce.
Since its introduction in Parliament three years ago, the Bill has faced strong resistance from farmers’ groups, civil society and some political parties.
“We are demanding our right to land, right to our seed and food systems and our right to choose whether we want genetically modified foods,” Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana programmes coordinator Victoria Adongo told journalists.
“If the Bill is passed into law it will lead to abject poverty and misery of farmers.” Adongo was speaking at a news conference organised to mark the 20th International Day in Solidarity with Peasant Farmers.
Ghana commemorated the day under the theme: “2016 celebration of the peasant struggle: the future of agriculture in Ghana.”
Adongo told The Africa Report in an interview that the association was not against new technology but opposed clauses in the Bill that sought to deny smallholder farmers the right to save and exchange their own seed.
“What we’re saying is that the Bill has some clauses that will jeopardise the food sovereignty of this country by allowing foreign nationals and these international corporations to take-over our seed industry,” she said.
“The situation is very serious for a country that largely depends on agriculture to feed and develop its economy, if you allow someone to control your seed and plant then the person controls you.”
Ghana’s agricultural performance has witnessed a consistent decline in recent years, a development Adongo blamed on alleged persistent sabotage of farmers’ efforts by multilateral corporations, and authorities’ failure to prioritise needs of farmers.
The controversial Bill guarantees patenting of seeds, which would require farmers to buy from seed producers.
Agricultural Sovereignty of Ghana member Yaw Opoku said opposition to the proposed law was spurred by the need “to protect indigenous farmers’ rights and national interest”.
“GMOs [Genetically modified organisms] food and plant breeder when allowed to operate will eventually do away with all our local and traditional produce which will affect us greatly health wise, hence our fight against its passage,” he said.
“(If you violate the proposed law) you will either suffer criminal charges or you will go for a civil action that allows the producer to cut down all your farm produce.
“Many factors affect the yield of a crop such as the soil, fertilizers, and rains among others so it is a lie to assert that it is only GMOs that can increase agricultural yields”.
Ghanaian peasant farmers are constrained by poor rural roads, unavailability of key infrastructure and absence of appropriate information on the right farm inputs and their use.
Financial institutions are also unwilling to grant them loans while high cost of inputs such as seed, pesticides, fertilisers, drugs and vaccines as well as use of outdated technology continue threaten their ability to expand.
Source: The Africa Report