Bagbin, Two Government Capos, In Semantic Spin

… of the Plant Breeders Bill, Mr. Alban S.K Bagbin, leader of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs says; “This has nothing to do with GMOs.” He went ahead to state; ‘….What is worrying is the attempt to link the Plant Breeders Bill to Genetically Modified Organisms.’

The above quotes are culled from an article published in Ghana web on the 15th of February, 2014 titled, ‘Plant Breeders Bill will not promote GMO – Bagbin’. In this same article, The Deputy Attorney-General, Dr Dominic Ayine, also indicated that the bill was not about GMOs and did not seek to create a legal framework for GMOs to thrive.

Dr Ahmed Alhassan Yakubu, a deputy minister of Food and Agriculture, hammered in the last ignominious nail; to finally lock the truth in the coffin of treachery, by urging Ghanaians not to confuse the Plant Breeders Bill with GMOs.

The dishonorable twists of truth in the assertions above immediately fall apart in the face of the fact that, Genetic Modification is a form of Plant Breeding. So to the extent that the Plant Breeders’ Bill (PBB) does not prohibit the technology of Genetic Modification, but rather includes it; one can only wonder as to the kind of dullards these three men are taking Ghanaians to be.

Unless this trio, and other parliamentarians of their kind, plead ignorance regarding the fact that GMOs are the result of plant and animal breeding technologies, then they should forever burry their heads in shame.

It is rather depressing to find our politicians desperately spinning such webs of deceit; when our scientists have pretty much earlier made a clean breast of the truth; albeit with their tails between their legs.

In a debate between Samia Nkrumah and a Senior Scientist of the CSIR on TV3; it was clearly admitted by the CSIR chief that yes, GMOs are being introduced into Ghana. He asserted that they have received free samples for trials which are being carried out already. He clearly stipulated that the Biosafety Act and the Plant Breeders Bill are needed to prop such efforts.

So to find some of our most senior MPs engaging publicly in such unadulterated theatricals; in a desperate clamour to divorce Genetic Modification from a legal framework to back Plant Breeding is rather sad, if not pathetic.

Continually, the points must be made that;

Clause 23 of the PBB will totally erode our sovereign rights over plant breeding- we will in no way be able to control those foreign interests lurking in the backgrounds and licking their lips in ravenous anticipation to jump onto the carcass of our agricultural sector – once our parliament helps them make the kill.

This law is a matter of cutting our nose to spite our face as a country. Because in the ensuing seed wars (and for other scientifically bred organisms), our local scientists will be in no place to compete with their foreign counterparts. And since we have made such an over reaching law; which goes to inure to the whims of these foreign interests; we give the proverbial betrayal kiss of good bye to our local attempts at breeding. This is in the light of the fact that due to capacity issues, our local breeders will be outcompeted and made economically ineffective by superior foreign technologies and capital. As such, until we strike out the element of genetic modification contained in this bill, and other breeding technologies that we are yet to master, we are only placing (as we have done for much of our Gold and Oil) our agric sector on a silver platter to be exploited.

We have not sufficiently interrogated the subject of breeding (Genetic Modification especially). As a result, we have not built enough capacity locally to appreciate the pros and cons.

Internationally, the argument is still being waged. As such, it makes no sense to be putting in legal frameworks that will make our country a fertile ground for use as a ‘guinea pig’; when the global scientific community is advising the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach.

It is always possible to draft a legislation that covers the elements of plant breeding that we have mastered – and put in clauses that protect local efforts in particular. But to put out a straight jacket legal framework, like the current PBB, is clearly a covert attempt not to protect our local breeders, but to over-liberalise the sector. Thus making us another hot spot for the globally ensuing bitter GMO outcome controversy; which I don’t think we are ready to stomach as a country.

There are a myriad and one basis why it is prudent to properly scrutinize the plant breeders’ bill and the general issue of GMOs in this country before attempts at legislation, testing and implementation. That would be a more commonsensical approach; as opposed to this mad rush of protocol field trials and the ignoble attitude of some of our parliamentarians to conceal the matter under the carpet of semantic camouflage.

No matter how our MPs twirl and whirl, like the propellers of a helicopter about to crush, for once, Ghanaians have found a common ground to unite over a matter – one that they have come to realise goes beyond party colours. It is now an issue of the populace calling for conscientiousness on the matter, as against the apparent recklessness being exhibited by our law makers.

It was therefore not surprising that, of about a score of the comments that were made on the article in Ghana web concerning that spin conference by Bagbin and his pack, not a single one was in favour of our apparently renegade parliament.

It appears we have arrived at that point where our law makers have become a law unto themselves; making the laws they deem fit – to hell with the people’s fears.

It’s now clear, that the falcon can no longer hear the falconer in Ghana.

By: Jason Tutu

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