An update on GM crops in Ghana

Two years ago, Ghana’s High Court overturned a temporary injunction on the commercialization of genetically modified (GM) rice and cowpea. Since then, research on both have continued (though there was no indication that it stopped during the injunction), and GM cowpea is slated to hit the market in 2018.

Apparently these seeds will be offered at “no cost,” but as I outlined on Twitter a few weeks ago, I have my doubts on whether this will actually be the case, and if so, how effective of a marketing effort it will be. Moreover, for a while officials believed GM rice would also be commercialized next year, but it appears those plans have slowed down.

In the mean time, Food Sovereignty Ghana, the main plaintiff in the 2015 trial, has supposedly appealed the injunction, though no updates have been published in a while.

The Plant Breeders Bill (2013) — an intellectual property rights instrument — remains in Parliament, and lately, proponents have ramped up efforts to see the bill passed, appealing to past winners of the national Best Farmer Award and presenting the bill as a way to break free from donor reliance.

To this end, questions still remain over who technically owns patent rights to genes in the cowpea and rice projects. Monsanto and Arcadia Biosciences have respectively contributed to each project, genetically modifying varieties in their labs (currently, no lab in Ghana has the ability to undertake genetic modification). Details over these agreements remain murky, and though the National Biosafety Authority recently launched a website, project agreements have not yet been made public.

In summary, it looks like 2018 will be an important year for GM commercialization in Ghana, though questions remain over whether any GM seed will go to market without the passage of the Plant Breeders Bill.


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