Farmers, Fishermen Join GM Food Suit

The Ghana Association of Farmers and Fishermen has filed a motion to be part of the suit filed by Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), a food advocacy organisation, against the National Biosafety Committee and Ministry of Food and Agriculture, over the commercialisation of Genetically Modified (GM) cowpeas and rice.

However, the Senior State Attorney, Grace Sagoe, told the Fast Track High Court presided over by Justice Anthony Kwodwo Yeboah that she was not served a copy; neither was counsel for Food Sovereignty, George Tetteh Wayo.

Mr Wayo, who seemed surprised that the association had not informed the state that it intended to join the suit, asked for a short adjournment to enable him file an affidavit in opposition to the suit.

The trial judge had to adjourn the case to May 11, 2015.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has been asked to hold on with the approval and sale of GM foods till the final determination of the case.

The plaintiffs want an interim injunction to restrain the defendants from the release and commercialisation of GM cowpeas and rice until the provisions of the Biosafety Act are expressly and fully obeyed.

Food Sovereignty believes that Ghanaians are constantly bombarded with news items containing false claims that the attempts to impose GM rice and beans are being done in accordance with the law.

According to FSG, in Section 13 of the Biosafety Act, 2011 (Act 831), only the National Biosafety Authority has the power to authorise the commercial release of GM foods in Ghana.

The law states: ‘A person shall not, without the prior written approval of the authority, import or place on the market a genetically modified organism.

‘An application under subsection (1) shall include:

(a) the information set out in the Third Schedule
(b) a risk assessment as set out in the Third Schedule, and

(c) any other information that the applicant may consider necessary for an assessment of the potential risks and benefits of the requested activity.’

The plaintiffs also claim the National Biosafety Authority has not been inaugurated.

Plaintiffs further argue that Ghana is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and Article 23 of the Protocol requires parties, on their own and in cooperation with other states and international bodies, to promote and facilitate public awareness and education, including access to information, regarding the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms.

Furthermore, Food Sovereignty wants the defendants to consult the public in the decision-making process, to make public the final decision taken and to inform the public about the means of access to the Biosafety Clearing House.

It said Section 11 (1) of the Act says: ‘A person shall not conduct, contain, confine or use activity involving genetically modified organisms or their development without the written approval of the authority.’

BY Fidelia Achama

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