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ghana and togo: tackling the threat posed by gmos in west africa

The influx of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the West Africa subregion poses a grave and growing threat. Yet Ghana’s domestic national policy is very receptive to US influence, which is strongly pro-GMO. Furthermore, the close and growing political and diplomatic ties between Ghana and Togo extend this pro-GMO influence into Togo.

 

ghana – togo joint campaignTo combat this threat, a strong and coordinated civil society effort is required. These efforts must strive to protect biodiversity, as required under the Biodiversity Convention to which both Ghana and Togo are signatories.  This is especially pertinent given lobbying efforts by western biotechnology institutions and their government backers with regard to Ghana’s Biosafety Bill, which has not yet been passed.

what happened:  Friends of the Earth Ghana and Friends of the Earth Togo received funding to carry out joint capacity building, networking and campaigning on GMOs. Their goal was to protect traditional agriculture and the integrity of biodiversity through the establishment of responsible policy that discourages GMO introduction and ensures food security, food sovereignty and farmers’ rights to livelihoods. They also aimed to increase the effectiveness of the GMO campaign of Friends of the Earth International in terms of sustainable development targets and poverty reduction.

Key activities included reviewing current Biosafety Bill legislation. They also carried out awareness and skillshare workshops for institutions and members of the media. Finally, they held strategy meetings for campaigning and advocacy to build their network.

what is changing: This work has highlighted lapses in the Biosafety Bill. This information has made a positive contribution to media awareness, and countered information put forward by the government and its supporting external agencies, such as USAID, which promote GMOs in Africa.

This project also enhanced farmers’ awareness of the inadequacies in GMO policy, described by some farmers as a “policy trap”. Some farmers have used this information to question the source of seeds and whether they can be replanted – a line of questioning which could discourage GM seed entrepreneurs. In addition, the knowledge and capacity of FoE Ghana and its members was enhanced, and capacity was built for future collaboration. The project also fostered a closer relationship between members of the media between the two countries.

The gaps that the groups identified in the legislation were highlighted at engaging public debates in government-sponsored forums; furthermore, they were not countered by any convincing arguments from the government.  The information from the FoE review is also available to other civil society groups, government agencies and individuals, to further enhance their capacity through information sharing, advocacy and outreach programs.

Although this work has not yet been reflected in the political landscape, the groups believe pressure from farmers, consumer groups and other stakeholders will be brought to bear on Ghana and Togo’s governments as anti-GMO momentum builds.

what we learned: This project has built FoE teams’ capacity on GMOs, and strengthened the connection between GMOs and other campaign issues under FoEI’s Economic Justice - Resisting Neoliberalism Program. They envision sustainable agriculture, desertification, gender and development as other areas of connection; this project has furthermore built enthusiasm to forge a synergy among these campaign issues, using the GMO campaign as a key entry point.  The work done in this project also lends additional support to the regional African GMO campaign, of which FoE Ghana is an active member; FoE Ghana is now better able to provide strategic support for campaign planning and implementation to other regional groups.

However, this collaborative project faced challenges in terms of difficulty traveling between the two countries, imposed by poor roadways, language barriers, and border controls. This affected the project’s timeframes and planning.  The groups realize that they face a significant challenge in terms of the Togo and Ghana governments’ very positive stance toward multinational business, a stance that makes them sympathetic to pro-GMO agri-business; thus far their governments have not indicated opposition to GMOs.

what next: FoE Ghana matched FoEI’s support for this project; however, FoE Ghana and FoE Togo are now seeking further funding for GMO campaigning from agencies in their countries. Another important goal is to further share the results of their policy review with FoEI members, as well as farmers, consumer associations, policy makers and academics.

with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs and oxfam novib

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