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Court Bans Production and Sale of GM Foods in Ghana

A Civil Society group- Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) has won a landmark lawsuit against the Ghanaian government on Genetically Modified Organism foods (GMOs). A Fast Track High Court in the capital, Accra ruled in favor of FGS that the production and sale of GMOs cowpeas and rice in Ghana is illegal and should be stopped with immediate effect. FSG sued the National Bio-safety Committee set up by the Ghanaian government and Ghana’s Ministry of Agriculture last year in a bid to prevent them from releasing and commercializing genetically modified cowpeas and rice. But before the court gives it ruling on the matter, Ghana began releasing and commercializing GM foods in a very controversial way. The court said the Agriculture Ministry cannot approve the sale of GM foods until it rules on the case brought before it by FSG.

According to the FSG, the Ghanaian government cannot go ahead to implement the process for genetically modified foods since it has failed to comply with the provisions of the main Bio-safety Act. Ghana is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety which in part requires parties to promote public awareness and education regarding the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms. The agreement also requires parties to consult the public on decisions regarding food bio-safety. Lawyer of FSG, George Tetteh Wayo commended the court for upholding the Rule of Law in the country, urging the Ghanaian government to create public awareness of GM foods before commercializing it. “This case is the first GMO case in Ghana. We are pushing this case to its final conclusion. The right thing must be done and respected. They need to consult the public and engage stakeholders. The Constitution of Ghana is clear on public awareness, how many Ghanaians can identify GMO cowpea on the market,” he told the press after the ruling.

Ghana is one of the few African countries that have allowed the introduction of GM foods. Currently, field trials of modified rice and cowpeas as well as cotton are underway in the Ashanti and Northern regions of the country. There were lots of debates about GMOs when a bill seeking to introduce the Plant Breeders Right Bill (PBRB), which protects the rights of scientists and corporations to seeds or crops, developed for Ghana was laid before the Ghanaian Parliament. For the crops in question, the country will have to depend on certified seeds invented by multi-national and other GMO seed producers, thus surrendering Ghana's food sovereignty to individuals and organizations in the developed world. Civil Society groups and anti-GMOs campaigners protested publicly, warning members of parliament and the government never to pass the PBRB which will allow GMOs into the country. But the Ghanaian Parliament somehow managed to pass the bill through the floor of parliament which many independent observers say was done without taken into consideration the concerns raised by some section of the Ghanaian public. Genetic modification refers to techniques used to alter the genetic composition of an organism by adding specific useful genes. These useful genes could make crops high-yielding, disease resistant or drought-resistant.The process used to alter the organism is known as genetic engineering. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food.

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