Report suggests Ghana’s agriculture will grow if country adopts GMO seeds

A Report on Ghana’s agribusiness suggests that if the country adopts genetically modified organisms (GMOs), agricultural production will see considerable growth.

The Ghana Agribusiness Report First Quarter 2013, released last week by Companies and Markets, a research company says as Ghana’s 2012/2013 corn harvest is in progress “we expect production to increase only slightly year-on-year, to 1.65 million tonnes. Over the long term, production could see considerable growth should genetically modified seeds be adopted.”

Ghana passed the biosafety law in 2011. The Late President John Evans Atta Mills gave assent to the  bill on December 31, 2011 after it has been in Parliament for four years, according to a Ghana News Agency report.

The law, from the Biosafety Act, 831, 2011 will enable Ghana to allow the application of biotechnology in food crop production involving GMOs to enter food production.

It will also ensure an adequate level of production in the field of safe development transfer, handling and use of GMOs that are pharmaceuticals for human use, and which are the subject of any other enactment.

The law will establish a transparent and predictable process to review and make decisions on specified GMOs that were pharmaceutical for human use.

The 28-page Act has nine Arrangements of Sections, which include Scope, Objectives and Establishment, Administration, Handling of Requests for Approvals, Reviews and Approvals, Technical Advisory Committee, Regulatory Agencies, Inspections, Finance and Miscellaneous.

It has five schedules which include – Conduct of Business and Affairs of the Board, Information Required in Applications for Contained or Confined Use, Information Required in Applications for Release, Importation and Placing on the Market, Risk Assessment and Regulatory Agencies.

Under the new biosafety law, a National Biosafety Authority will be established with the functions clearly spelt out in the Act and the makeup of the governing body.

In April 2012, Ghana’s Parliament passed a Biosafety Bill. The Bill will establish a legal framework to provide the machinery for regulating biotechnology and biosafety including genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Meanwhile, GM corn or maize now makes about 81% of the trade in crops globally and 89% of the soybean supplied between 2009 and 2010 was from GM corn countries, despite concerns about their safety both to humans and the environment, Prof. Adelaida Harries of Iowa State University in the US has said providing figures in support.

And available data shows that international trade in GM seeds has grown to about $42 billion.

Data from the Iowa State University indicates that as at 2011, more than 70 countries in the world have harmonised their seed policies and regulations since 1992.

GMOs are food crops that have been injected with genomes or genes from other living organisms to make them resistant to pests, grow in some environments or produce high yields, through the scientific process known as biotechnology.

The Report forecast that cocoa production growth to 2016/17 will be 15.1% to reach 990,000 tonnes. Yield gains are likely to continue. Rising GDP will allow easier credit access to cocoa farmers wanting to expand production, it says.

Corn production growth to 2016/17, the Report says will be 40.0% to 2.24mn tonnes.

“Ghanaian corn yields remain low in relative terms, with production still dominated by smallholders making limited use of fertilisers, mechanisation, improved seeds and post-harvest facilities. However, a 50% fertiliser subsidy introduced by the government in 2008 is improving the situation,” it adds.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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