Farmer representatives present at a workshop on biotechnology (popularly called GMO) and biosafety issues held on October 13 expressed their willingness to adopt biotechnology cropping. This is to enable them obtain superior crop yields to improve Ghana’s agrifood system. As a safeguard measure, they also intend continuing with their conventional farming methods, rivet, and scale their farming operations for the long haul to boost Ghana’s food ecosystem.
The workshop was attended by a wide range of stakeholders including farmer organisations and cooperatives, National Best Farmers’ Association, Media including Agricinghana Media, Biotechnology Experts, and representatives from the Food and Drug Authority (FDA).
The event forms part of a series of awareness creation on biotechnology and biosafety for National Best Farmers’ Associations in the Southern sector.
Presentation by Experts
Experts from various key institutions made presentations to the participants.
Prof Kenneth Danso of the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) gave a detailed lecture on biotechnology, interspersed with scientific safeguards. He also presented the history and adoption use-cases. He indicated that the need to adopt biotechnology/GMOs ensures food security, generates high economic benefits, and augments protection of crops with enhanced nutrition.
He further underscored the fact that using GMO seed is environmentally friendly and provides clean mitigation against climate change with drought-tolerant crops.
Presenting on the socio-economics of biotechnology/GMOs, Dr Ampadu-Ameyaw of CSIR/STEPRI and the Lead of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, Ghana Chapter stressed the need for efficient integration of biotechnology into relevant policy frameworks in Ghana.
Speaking to Agricinghana Media, Dr Ampadu-Ameyaw further stated that Ghana have not yet fully integrated biotechnology into its agricultural systems. This hesitancy is due to a lack of a rational and predictable biosafety framework that facilitates access to products and varieties produced using biotechnology.
According to him, Ghana has been at the forefront of incorporating agricultural biotechnology evidenced in the Science and Technology Innovation (STI) policies of 2001 and 2010. There is on-going discussions for it to be fused into the new Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP) for better operational outputs and impact assessment. “Agricultural biotechnology can benefit through the production of new and nutritionally enhanced foods”, he accentuated.
There were presentations from Professor Walter Alhassan and Mr. Daniel Osei Ofosu of Programs for Biosafety Systems (PBS) on Plant Breeders’ Right Bills and other biosafety regulations. Professor Alhassan gave an overview of Ghana’s Seed Sector Regime imploring participants to use available scientific breakthroughs to increase productivity.
Professor Alhassan stated that the tools of biotechnology, when combined with the science of breeding, have created improved varieties that deliver increased value globally.
Making a presentation on safety of GMO foods, Nana Akua Yeboah of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) indicated that GMO foods are effectively captured in Codex Alimentarius (Food Code), a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations relating to foods, food production, and food safety.
“FDA adheres to the Codex guidelines. Food safety with regards GMO has passed through rigorous scientific standards and is very safe for the consumer”, she stressed.
Chief Farmer of National Best Farmers’ Association indicated that Ghanaian farmers are not averse to using agricultural biotechnology products. Instead farmers expect continuous sensitisation events to be held across the country to allay fears and address lingering doubts. He expressed the support of the farmer association in helping roll out needed sensitization efforts.
Ms Ama Kudom Agyemang, an Environmental Consultant and member of OFAB, expressed the urgent need to address perception of some GMO products. According to her, there is the notion that there are already GM products on the market being consumed unknowingly by Ghanaians. Additionally, she stressed the need to appropriately categorise GMO seeds and hybrid seeds.
Various questions were asked and a question that stood out was one that a participating farmer enquired why GMO seeds were not replicable and further queried why the farmer client should continue buying new seeds every farming season.
The response from the experts was that GM seeds can be replanted. However, the same yield and protection could not be guaranteed as freshly purchased GM Seeds.
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