Ghana’s Parliament to investigate GMO fears


 
The first meeting of the Second Session of Sixth Parliament of the forth Republic of Ghana opened in Accra Tuesday morning, with Speaker Edward Doe Adjaho announcing that he has received “a number of petitions” on Ghana’s Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) agenda.

In a statement welcoming lawmakers from the Christmas and the New Year break, the Speaker said, “I have taken note of the fact that the Biosafety Act, 831 https://www.google.com.gh/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&sqi=2&ved=0CCQQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fbch.cbd.int%2Fdatabase%2Fattachment%2F%3Fid%3D12126&ei=fLznUtMnp9jsBq-QgdgI&usg=AFQjCNETfRA6-gP-NQPhtTocMnuYV9HjRg&sig2=TkT8lO344ugC6bB-WFOcVQ&bvm=bv.59930103,d.bGE , which was enacted in 2011 made provisions for the establishment of a regulatory body that is the National Biosafety Authority to deal with most of the concerns raised in those petitions.”

The Speaker’s comments came just hours after some Ghanaians took to the streets to demand immediate withdrawal of the Plant Breeders Bill from Parliament.

Although the bill seeks basically to create a legal regime to grant and protect the rights of people in the business of breeding new plan varieties, critics of the Bill say the proposed legislation could endanger the lives of Ghanaians as well as compromise Ghana’s food security.

In a direct response to those concerns, the Speaker quoted relevant sections of the Biosafety Act at today’s sitting of Parliament in an attempt to allay the fears of critics of the Ghana’s GMO agenda.

He said, “Indeed, the objectives of the Act in Section 2 are:

a) to ensure an adequate level of protection in the field of safe development, transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms, resulting from biotechnology that may have adverse effect on health and the environment, and

b) to establish a transparent and predictable process to review and make decisions on genetically modified organisms specified in paragraph (a) and related activities.”

Whilst drawing the attention of critics of the Plant Breeders Bill to the provisions of the Biosafety Act, the Speaker said it was import that Parliament considered the concerns of those opposed to GMOs in Ghana.

He, therefore, referred the “matter to leadership [of Parliament] to consider and advice the Chair accordingly”. The Speaker fell short of giving a deadline for the Leadership of the House to submit its report.

Incidentally, Tuesday’s Order Paper of Parliament had advertised the Plant Readers Bill for scrutiny at the Consideration stage. However, the House did not take the Bill through the advertised stage. The Majority bench did not assign any reason for failing to take the Bill through the consideration stage at Tuesday’s sitting.

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