Despite the sustained campaign against the introduction of commercial genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Ghana, including a protracted legal battle, Ghana is likely to commercialize GMOs in three years, according to information sourced by ghanabusinessnews.com.
Early this year, Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) a food advocacy organisation, sued the National Biosafety Committee and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, over the commercialisation of genetically modified (GM) cowpeas and rice.
According to news reports, the FSG cited Section 13 of the Biosafety Act, 2011, (Act 831), which states that only the National Biosafety Authority has the power to authorise the commercial release of GM foods in Ghana.
“The law says:”13. (1) A person shall not, without the prior written approval of the Authority, import or place on the market a genetically modified organism.
“An application under subsection (1) shall include (a) The information set out in the Third Schedule (b) a risk assessment as set out in the Third Schedule, and (c) any other information that the applicant may consider necessary for an assessment of the potential risks and benefits of the requested activity.”
At that time, it argued that the National Biosafety Authority has not been inaugurated, and therefore, GMOs can’t be commercialized in Ghana.
FSG argued further that Ghana is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and Article 23 of the Protocol requires Parties, on their own and in cooperation with other States and international bodies, to promote and facilitate public awareness and education, including access to information, regarding the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms.
It indicated also that it requires Parties to consult the public in the decision-making process, to make public the final decision taken and to inform the public about the means of access to the Biosafety Clearing-House.
It added that, Section 11 (1) of the Act says: “A person shall not conduct, contain or confine use activity involving genetically modified organisms or their development without the written approval of the Authority.”
The law stipulates in Section 42 (2) that “The Authority shall publish notices of final decisions concerning applications made under this Act in the Gazette and electronic and print media,” in order to ensure public awareness and participation, it said.
But with the inauguration of a 13-member Board of Directors of the National Biosafety Authority in February 2015, the appointment of a substantive Chief Executive Officer and Cabinet having approved the Regulations on Biosafety Law in April 2015, the likelihood of Ghana commercializing some GM crops in three years has increased.
In the last two years Ghana started limited field trials for genetically modified cotton and rice crops in selected areas of the country, after approval from the National Biosafety Committee to conduct such tests, following promulgation of the country’s Biosafety Act, 2011 (Act 831) and research conducted by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) -Savanna Agric. Research Institute (SARI), Nyankpala, Tamale.
Field trials for Bt. rice started in Fumesua in the Ashanti Region, while field cultivation for Bt. cotton, which also started in June 30, 2013, are still ongoing at six locations in six districts of the country.
It is highly likely that either Bt Cowpea or GM cotton will be commercialized within the next three years.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi