Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) together with other civil society, as well as faith-based organisations in Ghana have waged a consistent and vociferous battle against Ghana’s Plant Variety Protection Bill, based on UPOV 1991 for several years. The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is an intergovernmental organisation with headquarters in Geneva (Switzerland). The 1991 Act of UPOV (UPOV 91) is a restrictive, draconian and inflexible legal regime, emanating from industrialised countries in response to the advent of large-scale commercial farming and commercial plant breeding and governs private rights.
The plant variety rights bill (PBR) was passed in December 2020, despite such push back in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. The PBR Act is extremely draconian and continues to be opposed as it not only grants extremely strong breeders’ rights, it is also a declaration of war against farmers because it provides for prison sentences of at least 10 (ten) years for violations of the act.
This odious PBR law contains a clause, which provides some small safeguards for the possibility for the implementation of farmers’ rights in Ghana in the future. However, this Clause 22, has been reinterpreted by the Attorney General of Ghana to force compliance with UPOV 1991.
Clause 22 makes plant breeder rights “subject to“, rather than “independent of” other regulations regarding the marketing of seeds. This means that there is a possibility that for example, where a GM variety is not allowed to be placed on the variety list and allowed to be produced and marketed in Ghana in terms of its seed law, it may also not allow plant breeder’s rights from being granted in regard to such variety. The clause renders Ghana’s PBR law inconsistent with UPOV 1991 and does not allow Ghana to proceed to join UPOV 1991.
Art. 18 of UPOV 91 states: “The breeder’s right shall be independent of any measure taken by a Contracting Party to regulate [Commerce]”.
We are alarmed and outraged that the Honorable, Mr. Godfred Yeboah Dame, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice of Ghana, sent a letter to the Office of UPOV with the request to reaffirm the decision of the UPOV Council taken in 2013, that Ghana’s PBR Act is in conformity with UPOV 1991. In this regard, he has conveyed disingenuous interpretations of the clause to UPOV in an attempt to force compliance with UPOV 1991, which we totally reject. FSG together with APBREBES submitted a Comment [LINK] to UPOV in this regard.
FSG is utterly dismayed that the government of Ghana is still pursuing the submission of the instruments of accession to the Convention of UPOV 91. We reiterate our strenuous opposition to both the Act and Ghana joining UPOV 1991.
Food Sovereignty Ghana vehemently opposes numerous provisions and inadequacies of the PBR Act, such as the complete absence of any measures against biopiracy and especially the criminalisation of farmers. We demand the revision of the entire legislation and in particular Clause 60 dealing with offences. We thus affirm our strong opposition to UPOV 1991, which strengthens breeder’s rights and imposes new restrictions on farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell seed of protected varieties. UPOV 1991 has long-term effects of corporate monopolisation and corporate capture, diversion of seed and agricultural research and development in favour of extractive multinational markets, loss of biodiversity, human rights’ violations, social and political injustices and inequities and loss of national and farmer sovereignty over genetic resources.
We hereby demand that the Attorney General desist from forcing Ghana into joining UPOV 1991 and continue to oppose the PBR Act and demand the full implementation of farmers’ rights in Ghana.