Sunday, November 03, 2013

Don't Join UPOV 91 Mr President!

There is a new form colonialism under way in Africa. Foreign multinational companies and their governments are exerting relentless pressure on African countries to pass laws and implement policies whose net effect will be to promote agribusiness and destroy small-holder farming, which is the source of most food Food Sovereignty Ghana strongly opposes the UPOV 91 compliant Plant Breeders' Bill, currently before Ghana's Parliament. The bill is a danger to the way we farm and to Ghana's rich variety of seeds. It is a danger to how we develop our own varieties of seeds, and how we farm in Ghana. It is a give-away to foreign agribusiness corporations, which is why UPOV 91 has been nicknamed the Monsanto law in some countries.

UPOV 91 is a legal convention, International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), that protects plant breeders when they create new varieties of plants. It does not protect the plants; it protects IPR, Intellectual Property Rights, of the breeders. International agribusiness corporations want countries to pass UPOV 91 compliant laws because it means huge profits for those companies.

The UPOV 91 compliant Plant Breeders Bill in Ghana is designed to create and serve the interests of an industrial-style, monoculture-based farming system. It is a corporate farming system that is heavily tilted in favour of the commercial seed industry. In Ghana and Africa that means the foreign seed industry. The bill advantages foreign corporations over Ghanaian farmers presently working their own small farms in Ghana. The bill is an action against the interests of smallholder farmers. The bill is aimed at replacing local seed varieties with uniform commercial varieties that are most likely to be imported. It will increase the dependency of smallholder farmers on commercial seed varieties, possibly excluding all other varieties. Contracts permitted under this bill will force farmers to buy new seeds every year. These purchases will come from a limited range of foreign seeds. The effect will be the erosion of Ghana's crop diversity; we may lose most of the varieties of foods we like and plant, varieties that grow well in Ghana. The limited variety of mostly foreign seeds that we can purchase will make our crops far more vulnerable to threats such as new plagues of insect pests, super weeds, plant diseases, and climate change.

The corporate seed industry seeds, often laboratory created genetically engineered GMOs, must be purchased new each planting season. Under the UPOV 91 Plant Breeders Bill farmers may have to pay royalty fees to the corporations if they save and replant their own seeds. Farmers may also have to pay royalty fees to the foreign corporations if they give or sell seeds to neighbouring farmers or sell them in local markets. Ghanaian farmers have always saved seeds to plant the next season. This is the business of farming. Should this practice be reduced or ended by law? In Colombia, tons of seeds of hard working farmers have been confiscated by their government and destroyed. Is that what we want to happen in Ghana?

 If the UPOV 91 Plant Breeder Bill is passed the Ghanaian diet and health will suffer. Farmers will be forced into debt buying seeds each year and forced out of business. There will be far less variety of foods. The health effects of toxic chemicals, GMO alien proteins, and a far more limited diet will play out over generations.

Is this what Ghanaians want? Say NO to UPOV laws! Say no to GMOs! Farmers must be able to freely use, exchange and sell seeds and grow traditional Ghanaian foods and crops!

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