The highest court of the land ruled that the High Court was right in a May 2019 decision that it had the jurisdiction to continue hearing the case.
The original case has been pending at the High Court, Human Rights Division in Accra, since February 2015 when it was first filed by civil society group, Food Sovereignty Ghana, and three other groups.
They are seeking among others a declaration that ongoing processes by various government agencies to commercialise Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are illegal.
According to court documents cited by Joy News, the plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the government has not met the necessary legal requirements as contained in the National Biosafety Act 2011 to allow for the release and commercialization of GMOs.
They are also seeking a declaration that the National Biosafety Committee (an interim but now-defunct committee that approved trials for GMO cowpea, rice and cotton before the National Biosafety Authority was established), cannot approve the release and commercialization of GMOs per provisions in the Biosafety Act.
GNAFF raised a number of objections before the High Court including a claim that the legal action is pre-mature because the Biosafety Act makes room for grievance settlement processes at the level of a board and appeal’s tribunal.
GNAFF says without exhausting those procedures, the High Court should not be entertaining the legal suit. But the High Court disagreed and ruled the case can proceed.
GNAFF then proceeded to the Supreme Court seeking to quash the High Court ruling but the justices of the highest court of the land backed the lower court’s position. Lawyer for GNAFF Bright Okyere-Adjekum subsequently withdrew the application even before the Supreme court could rule.
Dziwornu who represented GNAFF said after the ruling that, they will now go back to pursue the substantive case before the High Court. “I am happy. The Supreme Court judges are very fair. They have given us the opportunity to come up with issues in a way that no one will argue about it again…” he told the media.
He says despite the judgement not going in their favour, they are poised to return to the High Court to prove the judiciary has no businesses illegalizing ongoing plans to introduce GMOs in the country.
“It’s still in the process. I don’t see anything new from the Supreme Court ruling. We were in the High court already. We will go back to fight the real case there….And we will win a victory for farmers so they can grow GMOs,” Dziwornu noted.
Lawyer for Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) George Tetteh Wayoe is also confident Tuesday’s ruling is a sign of better days ahead for his side.
“We are happy about this ruling from the court. It boosts our case. It tells the world that the court of Ghana is ready to look at genetic engineering. Don’t let us belittle this action,” he told Joy News.
In their statement of claim dating back to 2015, the anti-GMO groups insisted ongoing processes to commercialise GMOs amount to a breach of the country’s laws saying government blatantly disregarded the Biosafety Act, 2011. It also claimed international biosafety protocols have also been breached.
FSG was joined by in their suit by Ghana’s third largest political party – the Convention People’s Party, the Vegetarian Association of Ghana and one other farmer group.