The Chief Executive Officer of the National Biodiversity Authority, Eric Okoree, has advocated a legislation to regulate the genetic resources sector for the country to reap the maximum benefits from its genetic resource capital.
He said a new law would spell out the modalities by which both local and foreign scientists, researchers and bio-prospectors could access Ghana’s genetic resources and how the benefits from such resources could be shared equitably.
He added that the law would also ensure that those who needed such resources would seek prior approval or consent and involvement of local communities that had established the right to grant access to the resources.
At a sensitisation workshop on the Nagoya Protocol Access and Benefit Sharing Protocol in Accra, Mr Okoree said "a new law is long overdue because scientists, researchers and bio-prospectors are already accessing the genetic resources we have in the country.
"Without any provision of the sharing of resources' benefits, they can walk away freely, hence the need to domesticate the Nagoya Protocol in Ghana," he said.
Genetic resource is any biological material which contains genes and/or metabolic material that may be derived from genes of plants and animals and other living organisms.
Genetic resources fall within the scope of the Nagoya Protocol whenever they are used for research or product development.
The protocol is a supplementary agreement to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity that entered into force on October 2, 2014, with a focus to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources.
Ghana has ratified the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Beneficiary.
Mr Okoree said to get the law domesticated, Ghana must get a national legislation to properly implement the protocols.
“We must either enact a specific law or to amend one of the laws that we have by making a provision; if none of these is made, it means that anybody can come and access our genetic resources, go out and make product to generate a lot of money out of that.
“Such person will not be compelled by any legislation to recognise the sources of those genetic resources. This means Ghana will lose out,” he said.
The Chairman of the National Biodiversity Steering Committee, Professor Alfred Oteng Yeboah, said there was the need for the government to place a moratorium on Genetic Resources and Benefits Sharing protocol.
He said the status quo should remain the same until Ghana found solution to unregulated access to genetic resources of the country.
“What I mean by this is people are using genetic materials, and the information is all over the place. So, the idea of going through digital sequencing — which is harming the sources from which these genetic genes have come from — should stop.
“When you place a moratorium, what you are saying is that what has already gone is ok, but from now on until we are able to develop proper regulations, the practice in which these digital sequencing which are loose genes that are splashed all over the place without known sources must stop,” Prof Yeboah stated.
He added that “if the practice is not stopped, all our genetic resources will be sequenced and we will not get any benefits coming from them unless we are using them ourselves”.
The Minister of Science, Environment, Technology and Innovation, Dr Kwaku Afriyie, said it had become necessary to create awareness and build the capacity of key stakeholders on the provision of the Nagoya Protocol to ensure that biological resources of Ghana did not get out for various uses without due recourse to laid down procedures.