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Huge Row Over GMOs As Thousands Protest In Accra
|Huge Row Over GMOs As Thousands Protest In Accra|
|The Coalition For Farmers Rights And Advocacy Against GMOs (COFAM) a grass-roots movement of farmers, labour unions, religious, political and civil society organizations held a public demonstration against the introduction of Genetically Modified Foods and the Plant Breeders Bill on Tuesday January 28 through the principal streets of Accra.
The demonstrators later paid a courtesy call on the Nuumo Sakumo, the Chief Priest of the Ga Mashie people.
The leading organizations of the coalition including Food Sovereignty Ghana, Convention Peoples Party, Centre For Indigenous Knowledge (CIKOD), The General Agricultural Workers Union of TUC and Rastafarian Council) took advantage of the demonstration to launch the coalition at the Arts Centre. Attached are some photos of the demonstration.
A mobile police presence accompanied the marchers to the Arts Centre then took up position on open ground 50 yards away from the event’s marquee. Local press services were well represented, with high-powered cameras and recording devices focused on the main presentations. The march was organised by a coalition of groups under the umbrella of Food Sovereignty Ghana.
Samia Nkrumah, daughter of Kwame Nkrumah, was the main presenter on the day. Her prepared statement outlined the dangers of GMO and the risks to Ghanaian farmers and citizens framed within specific clauses of the controversial Plant Breeders Bill before Parliament.
Proposed legislation was heavily weighted in favour of the GMO hawks (like Monsanto) hovering over Ghana’s agricultural future. The Bill would afford them a virtual monopoly to supply Ghana’s farmers with seeds. The farming community would become totally dependent on GMO seeds, which they would be forced to buy on an ongoing basis. This would signal a death-blow to traditional independent seed-breeding methods.
The nation’s farmers had not been fully informed of the attendant risks and dangers of GMO. In India many thousands of farmers had committed suicide directly as a result of GMO introduction into the country’s agricultural system. The proposed Bill was described as a total sell-out of Ghana’s food sovereignty, with terrible long-term health hazards for the nation. Once GMO methods were introduced the negative impact on the soil was irreversible.
From the Arts Centre a small convoy of vehicles including the press corps proceeded to Jamestown where an impromptu meeting was held with traditional chiefs. This session included ritualised greetings with a row of ceremonially attired headmen seated facing a throng outside the palace of Chief Numo Sakumo. Presentations were briefer than at the Arts Centre with intermittent translations from Gaa to English.
Chief Numo Sakumo reminded the gathering that maize was sacred to the Gaa celebration of Homowa, and that he would resist any imposition of laws that had not been fully discussed with the chieftancy. He reminded the gathering that the issue should not become political or divisive. We all had to eat no matter what our affiliation, he said. His pledge to back protests against the Bill was met with resounding cheers from all present. The meeting ended on a highly positive note with a ritual libation and group photos of key personnel.
Hopefully the event will lead to growing public awareness and strong condemnation of the attempt to introduce GMO foods into Ghana. Rastafari activist Ras Aswad Menkrabea was the main organiser of the march.