Word Cloud: The Plant Breeders’ Bill of Ghana (2013)

Ghana Plant Breeders Rights

The past week has been a busy one for Ghana’s food rights and democracy groups. On September 30, 2014, Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), an advocacy group focusing on farmers’ rights, crop-breeding and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Ghanaian agriculture, among other things, wrote a vociferous critique against passing the Plant Breeders’ Bill of Ghana.

By other accounts, Ghana’s Parliament will be making a decision on whether the Bill can be adopted into the country’s law later this month, mostly post-October 21, 2014.

The Controversy

The reasons against the passage of the Bill are almost an exact echo of other countries’ rejecting their own plant breeders’ bills. For example, not too long ago, we covered how Guatemala first adopted, then rejected its entire Plant Variety Rights’Law.

In Ghana’s case, the issues seem to be among the following, according to FSG:

  • Plant breeders’ rights under the Bill do not give adequate intellectual property rights protection to Ghanaian science and industry, as the fear is that research funded by other nations will lead to patents being owned by foreign funding organisations, and not Ghana;
  • Ghana’s farmers will have to bear the brunt of increasing seed costs, and will not be allowed to re-use them year after year;
  • Free exchange, sharing and cross-breeding and cultivation of crops by traditional methods will not be allowed anymore, meaning that the cultural practices and heritage around crop-farming in Ghana will be affected adversely; and
  • The debate and discussion around the Bill has been far from democratic, with not much transparency in the decision-making processes.

Similar Issues, Different Developing Countries

The issues FSG points out are neither novel, nor surprising at this point. While Ghana does have an obligation to line its policies with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the 1991 Act of the International Convention for the Protection of Plant Varieties (the UPOV Convention), this does not mean that these obligations become burdens on the most vulnerable.

Like Guatemala and so many other developing nations before it, Ghana seems caught between a rock and a hard place. While the appeal of being part of the WTO is undeniable, as critics constantly point out, it comes at a steep price.

Stay tuned for more on this; we’ll be keeping an eye on what the final decision is. Also, take a look at the word cloud. Spot any similarities with the language and intentions between Guatemala’s word cloud from a few weeks ago?

Text Source: Plant Breeders’ Bill of Ghana [October 1, 2013], UPOV

Word Cloud Maker: Wordle.net

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About: Mekhala Chaubal

Mekhala is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, Canada with an interest in all areas of intellectual property (IP) law in a transnational context, privacy rights, and the development of IP in emerging economies. She is currently immersed in learning about innovation, entrepreneurship and the finer points of patent, copyright and trade-mark law as IP Legal Assistant.

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