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Ghana receives five applications for research on biotechnology crops

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GM CowpeaIn December 2011, the Ghana government quietly passed the Biosafety Act, after the Bill had spent four years in parliament.

The Biosafety Act, 831, 2011 enables the country to allow the use of biotechnology in food crop production involving Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Since the law, the then Biosafety Committee, which has now been succeeded by the Biosafety Authority has received five applications for research on biotech crops in Ghana, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reported.

According to the report, the applications were received for Nutrient Enhanced Sweet Potato (CRI); Nitrogen Use Efficient, Water Efficient, Salt Tolerant Rice (CRI); Bt Cowpea (SARI); Bt Cotton (SARI) and later GM Cotton (Dual trait) (SARI).

The report also noted that, “all the trials, except Sweet Potato and Bt Cotton, are still ongoing.”

It indicates that the sweet potato trial never received enough funding to be carried out. The Bt Cotton trial was replaced by the GM Cotton trial, with the former (Bt Cotton) focusing on a single trait (insect resistance) and the latter (GM Cotton) combining this trait with another trait, namely herbicide tolerance.

The USDA states that Ghana is clearly moving forward on biosafety and biotechnology with the passage of the Biosafety Act 2011 (Act 831) in December 2011.

It adds that Ghana could benefit from capacity building outreach programmess that would support science-based regulatory efforts and provide accurate information to the broader public on the positive benefits of biotechnology.

The biggest challenge facing the biotech community in Ghana, the report notes is it describes as “coordinated attempts to confuse the general public over what the Plant Breeders’ Bill really seeks to achieve.”

The report lists the following as the anti-GM activists. It says they include but not limited to, the Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), Friends of the Earth, and Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development Ghana (CIKOD).

“Most local Ghanaians have little or no knowledge and understanding of modern biotechnology and rely on opinion leaders (especially in the media) to understand issues of such nature. This has left huge gaps for the anti-GM groups to exploit by misinforming the public on issues of genetic engineering. This misinformation campaign has led to several bodies calling for government to exercise caution with the introduction of GE products; such bodies include; the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and Ghana Export Promotion Council,” it says.

According to the USDA, for a while, the anti-GM campaign seemed to be gaining ground in the public domain. However, in recent times, several individuals and groups have waged vigorous counter campaigns in the media to send the right information to Ghanaians and to reverse the growing anti-GM sentiments in the country.

By Emmanuel K Dogbevi

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One comment

  1. typically the US Department of Agriculture seems to think it has more credibility and more right to set the agenda and pathway for agriculture than Ghanian citizens. Will Africans perpetually be treated like children by the so called developed countries? If civil society has concerns about this foreign technology and the intellectual property rights issues it will bring it is their right to inform their brothers and sisters and garner support for their position. For the US government to point them out as dissidents and trouble makers in their own country seems highly inappropriate