Biotechnology not panacea for food security – Report

GM CowpeaWith 65 percent of Africa’s labour workforce employed by agriculture coupled with aging farmers, climate change, drought and famine and the youth shunning agriculture, biotechnology may not be a panacea for food security in Africa but essential.

The global challenge of doubling food by 2050 with less resources in water and Africa’s population is estimated to reach 4 million in 2100 there is the need to adopt a crop improvement strategy that integrates the best of conventional and the best of the new (Biotech) to optimize productivity and contribute to food, feed and fiber security and address climate change

With more than a 100- fold from 1.7 to 181.5 Metric per hectare (M ha) biotech has become the fastest adopted crop technology, Professor Walter Alhassan, Director, Biotechnology and Stewardship for Sustainable Agriculture in West Africa (BSSA) said at the 2014 OFAB Ghana launch of the Global  Status of Biotech Crops

The report was put together by International Services for the Acquisition of Agric-biotech Applications (ISAAA) was in Ghana bythe Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB).

The launch, promotes awareness creation on biotechnology, progress made and challenges to be addressed, to promote the use of the technology to address global agriculture needs.

The report quotes Biotech (Bt) cotton farmers in Burkina Faso  as saying that cultivating Bt cotton was less tedious, more yield, increased income for buying equipment and education their children  as well as aking care of their families.

The yield from BT cotton has increased to 4 tonnes per ha “The yield from my Bt cotton crop has increased from 500 feddans (200 ha) to 1000 feddans ( 420 ha ). I have wholly abandon the traditional cotton varieties that are prone to the boll worm attack” for Bt my production  has increased said Mr. Hailer Anwer  Yasin.

“I have increased my cotton hectrage from 500 feddans  (210 ha) to
Increased to 5 Shanka/feddans ( 1.7 tonnes ha, )said Mr. Hama Abdel Gadir  of Sudan.

Prof. Alhassan said with a 100-fold increase in biotech crops, hectarage improved from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 170 million hectares in 2012, making biotech crops the fastest adopted technology in recent world.

In 2014, developing countries planted 11 million ha more than area planted by industrial countries (96 million ha against 86 million ha.)

Eight out of the first 10 biotech developing countries, he said

Confined field trials in key crops such as maize, cotton, sorghum, melon cowpea, rice banana and cassava are ongoing in Ghana, South Africa, Cameroon, Kenya, Egypt and Nigeria.

He said was because no single approach could feed the projected world’s population of nine billion by 2050.

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.

Prof Alhassan explained that biotechnology was crucial to the pursuit of global food security since conventional crops alone could not feed the world’s population.

According to him GM foods were safe to eat if it has been passed by the regulatory authority and called for the expansion and improvement of current biotech crops to maximize productivity and income.

National Secretary of Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen (GNAFF) Mr John Dziwornu said GNAFF supports the introduction of genetically modified (GM) food in the country.

GNAFF is committed to promoting and embracing any proven technology that is beneficial to agriculture, especially smallholder farmers and fishers in Ghana, and this includes biotechnology (Bt),

Our markets are already flooded to the disadvantage of our farmers with agricultural products from other countries, he said, adding that most of those countries had already adopted biotechnology and thus had already introduced Bt foods into Ghana.

Dr Abdulai B. Salifu, Director General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) noted that CSIR welcomes contrary view on biotech and added that those who are not scientist or experts should not pretend to be what they are not.

The technology he said would boost food supply production and noted it was easier to sell fear than counteract it and called for concerted effort t allay fears on the dangers of GMOs.

Those of us publicly charged with the research and development needs of this country have no intention of leading our country into difficulties, Dr Salifu said.

Source: GNA

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