The year 2012 marked an unprecedented 100-fold increase in biotech crops hectarage from 1.7 million hectares in 1966 to 170 million hectares in 2012, making biotech crops the fastest adopted technology in recent world.
Out of the 28 countries which planted biotech crops in 2012, 20 were from developing countries and 8 in the industrial countries.
For the first time, developing countries grew more biotech crops in 2012 than industrial countries.
Africa, he said, continued to make progress with South Africa increasing its biotech area by a record of 0.6 million hectares to reach 2.9 million hectares.
Two new countries, Sudan and Cuba, last year, joined the countries planting biotech crops with Sudan planting Bt Cotton and Cuba, Bt maize.
Sudan has therefore joined South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt to bring the total number of African biotech countries to four.
Professor Walter Alhassan, Coordinator, Project on Strengthening Capacity for Safe Biotechnology Management in Sub-Saharan Africa (SABIMA), said these when he launched the 2012 Global Status Report on Commercialized Biotechnology and Genetically Modified (GM) Crops in Accra
He said no single approach could feed the projected world’s population of nine billion by 2050.
The launch, which was the seventh in the series, promotes awareness creation on biotechnology, progress made and challenges to be addressed, to promote the use of the technology to address global agriculture needs.
Biotechnology is the use of living organisms to produce a product or service such as tools of tissue culture, molecular characterization for identification purposes in plant breeding, diagnostics, fermentation and genetic engineering.
The report was put together by International Services for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and jointly launched by Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa as well as the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB).
Prof Alhassan explained that biotechnology was crucial to the pursuit of global food security since conventional crop improvement alone cannot guarantee human nutritional needs.
He said though biotechnology was not the panacea to the world’s food problem, it would help improve and address food security.
He said 170.3 million hectares of biotech crops were grown globally in 2012 at an annual growth rate of 6 per cent, up to 10.3 million from 160 million hectares in 2011.
He noted that lack of appropriate science-based and cost, as well as time effective regulatory systems continued to be the major constraint to adoption and called for a responsible, rigorous but not onerous, regulation for small and poor developing countries.
In Ghana, the National Biosafety Bill was passed into law in 2010 allowing the technology to be implemented in Ghana.
Currently, the National Biosafety Committee has received three applications which would be looked into and approved for confined field trials to begin.
A scientist Dr Emmanuel Chamba of the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute and Ms Emelia Gansah of the Ghana Farmers Association, who visited a Burkina Faso Biotech cotton field shared their experiences and recommended that Ghana should take up the task of embracing the new technology to boost its production.
According to them, serious negotiations were ongoing between farmers from the two countries and that there was the need for Ghana to take off immediately.