Bishop Charles Agyin Asare Preach
Presiding Bishop of Perez Chapel International, Charles Agyinasare
Ghana does not need genetically modified foods, Presiding Bishop of Perez Chapel International, Charles Agyinasare, has said.
Genetically modified foods (GM foods) are produced from organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering.
There is currently a Plant Breeders’ Bill before Ghana’s parliament, which anti-GMO group Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), as well as other groups such as Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana and the Convention People’s Party (CPP), is fighting against. They argue that passing it as well as adopting the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol, will be detrimental to local farmers.
Preaching in church at the Perez Dome at Dzorwulu in Accra on Sunday July 31, Bishop Agyinasare added his voice to the anti-GMO campaign saying: “…I’m not being political, but genetically modified food is not what we want. … Genetically modified food is not what we want. What we want is the natural one that God gave us. In every seed, when you plant it, you get a harvest and when you get a harvest, there is seed in the harvest. … Some of the genetically modified foods, they make [them] in such a way that in creating it, they mix chemicals and when they produce the corn, no insect can eat it because they have put the genes of the corn in it so animals cannot spoil it, God made sure that when you have a seed, it can be destroyed, when you have fruits, it can be destroyed. With genetically modified foods, there are times you see an apple … you know some of the apples they sell by the road side, the apple, for six months it doesn’t get rotten. [For] proper apple that is not genetically modified, when you put it down, three to four days, you see that it starts changing colour. You see banana, one month the banana hasn’t changed colour. Normally when you take banana from the tree and it’s ripe and you put it down, three days, the banana will be changing colour; that is how God made it because God has a cycle that things must go [through].
“…It is only genetically modified foods that want to break the cycle [of natural regeneration of seeds]. It’s true. In genetically modified foods, the kind of grain that they give, when you plant that grain and it yields, what you get, you can’t plant it again because that is man-made. So you would always have to go to them to look for seed …” Bishop Agyinasare added.
Food Sovereignty Ghana in March issued a statement saying it was “stunned” and “disappointed” to learn that the Plant Breeders’ Bill was returning to the floor of Ghana’s parliament without the promised consultation with stakeholders as ordered by the Speaker of the House.
“To this end, we are in full support of the press conference organised by CSOs/FBOs on March 1, 2016, at which they called for the protection of farmers’ rights and food sovereignty in Ghana.
The statement signed by Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour, Communications Director, said at the last time the bill came up on the floor of the House at the consideration stage on Tuesday, November 11, 2014, Speaker Edward Doe Adjaho urged Majority Leader Alban Bagbin, who was, at the time, Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, to have the body undertake “further consultation” with stakeholders before proceeding further with the bill.
“So far, there have been no consultation and no attempt to inform, apart from some propaganda efforts by the GMO lobby,” FSG said, adding: “We, therefore, find it strange that the Plant Breeders’ Bill is coming back to Parliament without a single consultation with any of the groups (Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development, General Agricultural Workers Union, Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, Ghana Muslims Mission, National House of Chiefs, Christian Council of Ghana, Apex Farmers Network of Ghana, Food Span and Ghana Trade and Livelihoods Coalition) that have petitioned Parliament.
FSG said the press conference organised by the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) in collaboration with the other named groups above, was a “clear indication that none of these critically important Ghanaian organisations has been consulted”.
“As petitioners, Food Sovereignty Ghana has legitimate expectation of being consulted. To date we have not been consulted,” FSG said, warning: “The Plant Breeders’ Bill and the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol are a danger to Ghana, a danger to sustainable agriculture and a danger to our ability to feed ourselves in the face of climate change. Both Bills promote breeders’ rights over and above farmers’ rights, as well as promote formalised cross-border seed trade over farmers’ informal seed exchange systems, threatening farmers’ rights to save, use, share, and sell seeds, and threatening seed diversity.
“Both Bills only incentivise ‘uniform’ varieties. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that about 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost due to the proliferation of uniform commercial varieties replacing native land races. Both bills present a devastating threat to our ability to preserve our seed varieties, sustain our agriculture, and adapt to climate change.
“The Plant Breeders’ Bill and the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol are two versions of the same bill. Both cede Ghana’s legal sovereignty to foreign corporations. This provision in both bills is entirely unnecessary for Ghana to comply with the WTO. Ghana has full flexibility under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to develop an effective “sui generis” system for plant variety protection, to develop a unique system that suits its needs.
“Parliament has no mandate or constitutional authority to cede any aspect of our independence to plant breeders, local or foreign! It is unconstitutional to pass a law containing Clause 23 of the Plant Breeders’ Bill. The same clause is also found in the Arusha New Plant Variety Protocol, which is expected to go before Parliament for ratification.
“The Constitution of the Fourth Republic of Ghana does not mandate the Parliament of Ghana to surrender any aspect of our sovereignty to foreign entities. Parliament has no authority to cede national sovereignty under the Constitution. If either Bill is passed, it will be necessary to challenge the passage of the Plant Breeders’ Bill and the ratification of the Arusha Protocol at the Supreme Court for the protection of Ghana’s Constitution, our farmers, our citizens, and our sovereignty,” FSG warned.
“We would like to see in any future Bill, a clear statement of farmers’ rights and the absence of any form of criminalisation of farmers such as what we saw in Clause 58 of the rejected Bill. In the report of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Plant Breeders’ Bill, November, 2013, we witnessed the conspicuous absence of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) among the documents referenced. This is an unconscionable omission. Ghana is a signatory to this treaty. It is the treaty that protects and supports farmers’ rights.
“As a member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGRFA), we expect Ghana to take steps to realise farmers’ rights to use, sell, save, and exchange farm-saved seeds, to protect their traditional knowledge and to allow their participation in national decision-making. The Bill must preserve Ghana’s sovereign independence and must protect the DNA of Ghana’s traditional seeds from bio piracy. Ghana must have sovereignty over our seed germplasm resources. It would be wise to mandate that any entity or individual, who provides germplasm resources to any foreign entity, organisation or individual in cooperation to conduct research, shall make an application and submit a national benefit-sharing scheme.
“There must be genuine consultation with Ghanaian farmers about these laws, not just with representatives of foreign corporate interests. Food Sovereignty Ghana heartily endorses the press statement of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana. We agree with their list of the true concerns of Ghana’s farmers. The Plant Breeders’ Bill and the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol will severely damage Ghana’s farmers’ livelihoods and our ability to feed ourselves sustainably and protect our country against the effects of climate change. Both the Plant Breeders’ Bill and the ARIPO Arusha PVP Protocol give away Ghana’s sovereignty. If they are passed, it will be necessary to challenge both before the Supreme Court.
“We seek to register our deepest disappointment over the fact that Parliament appears to be going ahead with this legislation without any consultation with key stakeholders that we know of! And that this is in spite of the fact that the very reason for its suspension was, as the Speaker put it, the need for further consultations with stakeholders. What is our parliament trying to do, Mr Speaker, for life, the environment, and social justice?