Government is to consider the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) under its flagship “Planting for Food and Jobs” (PFJ) programme, the Deputy Director for Crop Services at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Solomon Gyan-Ansah, has hinted.
According to him, the number of beneficiaries under the programme kept increasing by the day and the reliance on “conventional seeds” alone may not be sufficient to achieve the long-term goals of the PFJ.
“Since we introduced the programme, beneficiaries have increased from 200,000 to 500,000 and now we are targeting about 700,000 and looking at our plans to make Ghana self-sufficient in food supply, it will be unrealistic to do without GMOs,” he explained in an interview with the Ghanaian Times.
It was on the sidelines of a stakeholder discussion organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration (MFRI) in Accra yesterday on the implications of GMO’s in Ghana.
Held on the theme, “Are Genetically Modified Organisms good for Ghana,” the debate drew participants from the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ghana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), civil society organisations and the academia.
Mr. Gyan-Ansah noted that though the use of organic seeds had contributed immensely to food productivity in the country, the challenges it brought upon farmers cannot be over emphasised.
“A typical example is the fall armyworm outbreak that occurred last year. If it gets to a point where we cannot use conventional breeding to solve the problem of this army worm, we will have to resort to GMOs.”
“The farming population is increasing and we don’t want our farmers to lose their source of livelihood. We want jobs for them and for them to stay in business, and from the basis of science, we know for sure that there are no litigious effects when we use these GM seeds especially after it has undergone rigorous test,” he maintained.
Mr. Gyan-Ansah however insisted that “the GMO technology will be developed locally and not imported” and called for concerted efforts to make the invention work.
The Chief Executive Officer of the National Bio-Safety Authority (NBA), Mr. Eric Okoree, indicated that his outfit was poised to conduct the required risk assessment tests on the technology to ensure it was safe for the public.
Explaining the appraisal processes, Mr. Okoree said, “after the scientists have presented their final report to us, we will conduct an assessment, then publish it in the dailies for Ghanaians to give their input after which it will be looked at again by the relevant stakeholders till it is cleared as safe for the public.”
“Government has put all the necessary facilities in place to ensure that the GM is not dangerous to the public and that even before it get to farmers, it is safe for use,” he assured.
He observed that the lack of sensitisation of Ghanaians on the topic had accounted for the numerous misconceptions on the technology.
“Scientists must step up and explain the technology, explain the good side and the bad side and then we at bio-safety comes in to explain the regulatory procedures to derive the right benefit because GMO has a great potential to change the economic fortunes of the country,” he said.
The General Secretary of GAWU, Mr. Edward Kareweh, on his part vehemently opposed the idea of implementing GMO in the country.
“If we do not take care, we will sell Ghana entirely. We have sold out our gold and oil and the only thing left for us to have the power to produce and use our own seeds too is also about to be sold? That is very unfortunate,” he lamented.
The CSIR is currently undertaking trials that will allow for the commercialisation of genetically modified cowpea (Bt cowpea) in the country.
The product, expected to be largely resistant to destructive pests is likely to hit the local market by end of this year.