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Seed Privatization, Ghana


Description:

In Ghana, students and trade unions have joined small-scale farmers’ organisations in mobilising against a Plant Breeders’ Rights (PVP) Bill. Currently under consideration in parliament, the Bill would establish a national seed law based on UPOV ’91. As has been the case in many countries around the world, the law is being used to introduce legal restrictions on farmers’ use of seeds that go above and beyond the already very restrictive provisions of UPOV ’91. For example, the draft Bill states that “even in absence of proof to the contrary” the breeders can be assumed to be the owners of a variety in question, facilitating both biopiracy and the confiscation of seeds. Moreover, according to the Bill, if farmers use a protected variety against the law—such as reproducing the seeds of a ‘protected’ variety and sharing it with their neighbours—the farmers may be subject to up to 2,000 penalty units and up to two years in prison.

Since 2011, the resistance movement has been successful in gaining broad support against the bill by showing ordinary Ghanaians that it is not only farmers who will be affected. They have argued that the property protection in the Bill is simply the conditions sought by TNCs to operate in Africa, giving preference to cash crops for exports and the businesses of a few elites rather than for feeding the Ghanaian people. The Bill has been popularly hailed as a ‘Monsanto Law,’ underlining that industrial and commercialised agriculture, rather than the welfare of peasant farmers, is at the heart of the Bill. This is explicit in the Memorandum of the Bill, stating it is “aimed at improving the quantity, quality and cost of food, fuel, fibre and raw materials for industry“. Passage of the law is a commitment of the Ghanaian government towards the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

To gain support against the Bill, booklets have been made to explain the consequences of the law to village chiefs and farmer leaders in their local languages. The movement emphasises that seeds belong to farmers collectively and that there can be no private owners. Farmers in Ghana are demanding instead that public breeding programs be put in place to ensure quality seed for indigenous crops such as cowpeas, cassava, rice and coconut. In addition, groups of farmers and their allies have plans to organise collective projects for access to seed in the villages. This will allow farmers to access varieties that have vanished locally but may still be used by their neighbours or by other farmers in villages across Ghana.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Seed Privatization, Ghana
Country:Ghana
Location of conflict:Ghana
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
GMOs
Biopiracy and bio-prospection
Specific commodities:Seeds

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

The proposed Plant Breeders’ Rights (PVP) Bill would establish a national seed law based on the privatizing International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) ’91. This law is being used to introduce legal restrictions on farmers’ use of seeds that go above and beyond the already very restrictive provisions of UPOV ’91. For example, the draft Bill states that “even in absence of proof to the contrary” the breeders can be assumed to be the owners of a variety in question, facilitating both biopiracy and the confiscation of seeds. Moreover, according to the Bill, if farmers use a protected variety against the law—such as reproducing the seeds of a ‘protected’ variety and sharing it with their neighbours—the farmers may be subject to up to 2,000 penalty units and up to two years in prison.

It is not only organisations like UPOV, which directly work for the seed industry, that are pushing for stronger intellectual property rights around the world. In 2008, under the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program, the World Bank granted Mali 50 million CFA (76 000 Euros) to develop and ‘protect’ fifty crop varieties. The idea was to wean farmers off of traditional seeds, which are viewed as ‘backward’ and ‘low yielding’, by encouraging the breeding and production of improved seeds. These seeds would be protected and the royalties would translate into income for Mali’s public research system.

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:01/01/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Monsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Via Campesina, GRAIN, Food Sovereignty Ghana (http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/)

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Landless peasants
Trade unions
Students
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Media based activism/alternative media

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women

Outcome

Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Development of alternatives:Farmers in Ghana are demanding that public breeding programs be put in place to ensure quality seed for indigenous crops such as cowpeas, cassava, rice and coconut. In addition, groups of farmers and their allies have plans to organise collective projects for access to seed in the villages. This will allow farmers to access varieties that have vanished locally but may still be used by their neighbours or by other farmers in villages across Ghana.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Outcome of conflict is uncertain.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV)
http://www.upov.int/portal/index.html.en

African Model Legislation for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders, and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

The criminalisation of peasant seeds: How farmers are resisting

La Via Campesina & GRAIN. 2015

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Trade Deals Criminalise Farmers’ Seeds
https://www.popularresistance.org/trade-deals-criminalise-farmers-seeds/

Other documents

March against Monsanto in Accra Source: https://www.popularresistance.org/trade-deals-criminalise-farmers-seeds/
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Ghana_anti-gmo-protest.jpg

Meta information

Contributor:EJOLT Team
Last update11/02/2015

Images

 

March against Monsanto in Accra

Source: https://www.popularresistance.org/trade-deals-criminalise-farmers-seeds/