Plant Breeders Bill not related to genetic modification

The Director of the Crop Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Hans Adu-Dapaah, has said the Plant Breeders Bill has nothing to do with genetic modification and urged the House to pass the bill.

He said the bill currently before Parliament was a positive development which sought to address the interests of plant breeders, as well as promote agricultural productivity.

Dr Adu-Dapaah was speaking at a workshop for former Members of Parliament (MPs) on the benefits of the bill in Accra yesterday.

The bill seeks to establish a legal framework to acknowledge the achievements of breeders of new varieties of crops.

It encourages investment in plant breeding and promotes the seed industry.

If passed, it will promote the breeding of new varieties of plants aimed at improving the quantity, quality and cost of food, fuel, fibre and raw materials for industry.

Since the bill was sent to Parliament for consideration and passage, many civil society organisations have stood against it and sought to state that passing it was tantamount to opening the floodgates for the promotion of genetically modified (GM) foods in Ghana.

Dr Adu-Dapaah’s argument
Dr Adu-Dapaah said Ghanaians had been misled into believing that plant breeding was the same as genetic modification, noting that the impression was a false one.

According to him, plant breeding occurred in the field, while genetic modification occurred in the laboratory.

While Ghana had engaged in plant breeding for decades, he said, it did not have the facilities to develop genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

He said the benefits of the bill cut across sectors of the economy and would promote national development within the context of sustainability.

Apart from farmers and plant breeders, he said, the CSIR, as well as other agricultural research institutes, both in the public and the private sectors, stood to benefit from the bill if it became law.

Dr Adu-Dapaah noted that the drought-resistant varieties of maize, cassava, sweet potato, among many others, which had been developed in the country had come about as a result of plant breeding.

He added that the bill only sought to protect the rights of those who, through scientific experiments, came out with improved varieties and said Parliament needed to be encouraged to go ahead with moves to pass the bill.

He noted that the destructive effects of climate change made it imperative for the country to develop new varieties of crops which would withstand the changing weather.

Former MPs
The Executive Secretary of the Association of Former MPs, Mr Collins Agyarko-Nti, said after carefully studying the bill and listening to the experts, the former MPs had seen “the other side of the coin”.

He said it was clear that plant breeding had nothing to do with genetic modification and added that the association had prepared a memorandum which would be forwarded to Parliament to urge the House to pass the bill.

“This bill has enormous benefits for the country,” he said, and added that it only sought to protect the rights of plant breeders.

Mr Agyarko-Nti, a former MP for Asante-Akyem North, advised civil society organisations opposed to the bill to present the right information to the public to enable the people to decide and not spread falsehood and create panic in a bid to score points.


By: Mark-Anthony Vinorkor 

Date: Thursday, 17 April 2014

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