Research Scientists attached to the Biotechnology Research Programme (BRP) of the Crop Research Institute (CRI), have advocated the development and use of genetically-modified (GM) maize to deal with the devastating effects of the fall army worm infestation in Ghanaian farmlands.
Professor Mrs. Marian Quain, Leader of the BRP, said studies had shown that genetically-modified maize with in-built disease-resistant genes had the potential to withstand the harmful effects of the pests.
The fall army worm detected in Ghana some 15 months ago, had since infected more than 20, 000 hectares of farmlands, causing the country loses to the tune of about US$64 million. Prof. Mrs. Quain, who was addressing a seminar jointly organized by the CRI and National Biosafety Authority (NBA) at Fumesua in the Ejisu Municipality, said the conventional agricultural system had become fraught with varied challenges.
This is due to the changing climatic conditions, overpopulation, excessive use of pesticides and insecticides, as well as urbanization which had resulted in the destruction of farmlands. The Principal Research Scientist said it was appropriate that the nation facilitated the processes for the acceptance of GM-related technology in plant breeding and crop production to enhance food security given the emerging threats to agricultural productivity.
The seminar, targeting agricultural researchers, extension officers, plant breeders, seed growers, environmentalists, health experts and the media, aimed at sensitizing the participants on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).
Topics treated included ‘Africa’s Agricultural Sector Challenges and GMOs’, ‘Producing Transgenic Plants’, ‘Steps in Modifying an Organism’, ‘Transformation of Plant Tissue’, ‘Genetic Transformation Procedure’ and ‘Following Biosafety Guidelines’.
Prof. Mrs. Quain said the Biotechnology Research Programme would continue to engage policy-makers and stakeholders for the adoption of GM-related technology to address agricultural concerns. She cited how countries such as Burkina Faso and South Africa had made huge gains to address food insecurity, using this technology to their advantage.
Prof. Emmanuel Otoo, a Principal Research Scientist of the CRI, said as a country hoping to improve its food stock, science and technology remained the most important factors to realizing the aspirations of the people.
Mr. Eric Okoree, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NBA, advised the people to erase their minds of the erroneous impression about GMOs because the nation could no longer rely on the traditional agricultural practices to feed the growing population.