Civil Society Group Food Sovereignty Ghana has sued government again over plans to commercialise Genetically Modified Foods in the country.
The group in a fresh suit dated November 23, against the National Biosafety Committee and four others, is seeking declarations on whether required processes and laws have been adhered to in the ongoing plans to commercialise GMOs.
According to court documents, the plaintiffs are seeking a declaration from the Human Rights Court on “whether or not the defendants have observed the critical domestic and international laws of risk assessment and management in relation to the release and commercialization of Bt cowpea and Bt rice in the country.”
The defendants in the case are the National Biosafety Committee (which is now defunct following the establishment of a National Biosafety Authority), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Attorney General’s Office, National Biosafety Authority and Ghana National Farmers and Fishermen Association.
Food Sovereignty Ghana has filed the case along with the Vegetarian Association of Ghana, Goaso Kayan Akuafo Kuo – a farmers association, and Convention People’s Party.
The plaintiffs are also seeking a declaration from the court as to “whether the defendants have proper and detailed documentation in relation to the area of risk assessment and management in relation to the intention to release and commercialise Bt cowpea and Bt Rice in the Ghanaian ecosystem, and if they meet the accepted legal requirements in the handling of GMO activities.”
This is the second such court suit against government over plans to commercialise GMOs in the country. In February 2015, the plaintiffs filed a suit at the Human Rights Court seeking a declaration that “in approving the release and commercialization of GMOs, government had not met the requirement of the law on major issues of risk assessment and risk management.”
Some GMO seeds
They went on to apply for an interlocutory injunction to restrain the defendants, their agents, servants and assigns from approving, releasing and commercializing GMO rice and cowpea until the final determination of the case. Both requests were dismissed by the court.
Now, Director of Communications of Food Sovereignty Ghana Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffuor says they will soon appeal that ruling but are in the meantime seeking further clarifications from government on the ongoing trials.
“We are seeking directions from the court. We are trying to find out whether the international protocols and laws have been followed to the latter regarding the risk assessments that have been done for the Bt cowpea and Bt rice,” he explained.
“If you look at what happened with the cotton in Burkina Faso with the cotton, clearly, the socio-economic assessment was not well done there. Hence the abandoning of the GM cotton agenda in Burkina Faso after a few years,” he added.
Mr Baffuor announced further legal actions against government over the plan for commercialization once this case is over.
“This is the beginning of the substantive case to show that Ghana does not need GMO and the proposals that have been made do not equate to Ghana needing GMOs…it’s something that we should not entertain,” he noted.
“We want to highlight that these are the red flags that we should be paying attention to now. Some of these risk assessments have not been through. And as a nation we stand to lose out if we go ahead with the release of this cowpea and rice,” he said.
The Ghana National Farmers and Fishermen Association (GNAFF) has however dismissed the latest suit as an action without merit.
“The case has no merit… They are just making a lot of noise because they don’t have any facts. They are not farmers. They are also not in the business of farming. They are just a civil society organisation that is linked to anti-science groups that are fighting science and evidence-based issues relating to agriculture,” John Awuku Dziwornu who is an executive of the association told Joy news.
“This case will not go anywhere because they don’t have any strong foundation. They don’t know what it is. Ghana is abiding by all the international protocols. They should go and read and they will understand,” Mr Dziwornu added.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is currently undertaking trials that will allow for the commercialization of genetically modified cowpea (Bt cowpea).
The novel variety produced using GMO technology has been engineered with genes from a naturally occurring pest killing bacteria known as Bacillus thuringiesis (Bt), that makes it largely resistant to the destructive pest, Maruca pod-bearer.
The Bt cowpea is expected on the local market next year. Plans for the production of GMO rice and cotton have since been abandoned because of financial constraints.
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