Dr Ahmed Alhassan Yakubu, a former Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture has asked Government to, as a matter of urgency, operationalise the legal framework for biotechnology products in the country to boost commercial production.
This is because, Government would not have any excuse not to accept the introduction of biotech products into the Ghanaian market if the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) became fully operationalised.
Dr Yakuku, who was talking to the media on the sidelines of a three-day training for Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) coordinators in Accra on Monday, said the framework for sub regional and regional trade made the movement of biotech products legal, adding that with the coming on board of AfCFTA, more biotech products would influx the Ghanaian market.
He said the country, therefore, risked losing its market to other sub regional and continental trading partners if it did not allow for the introduction of locally produced biotech products on to the Ghanaian market immediately.
“Remember we also have the AfCFTA that is making the whole of the African continent one common market and the headquarters is in Ghana, and so if these provisions are operationalised continent-wide clearly Ghana has no opportunity not to have those products in the country.
“So, rather than wait for our market to be opened to other products to come in, why are we not opening our internal market to our internally generated scientific products to be on the field?” he asked.
The training is to strengthen the capacities of coordinators on agriculture biotechnology advocacy, explore new tools and approaches to advocacy and to establish a baseline to build for future capacity strengthening initiatives.
It brought together coordinators from all ten countries in Africa where OFAB existed, including Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda and Burkina Faso.
Ghana in 2011 passed the National Biosafety Act 831, which allowed for the introduction of Genetically Modified (GM) foods but the country is yet to commence commercial production of biotech products.
Dr Yakubu said Ghanaian scientists had invested so much into developing biotechnologies and that the only way the country could reap its benefit was to ensure that they were put to use.
He noted that the country had in the past lost greatly because of the lack of political will to give legal backing to technologies developed locally to be introduced on to the Ghanaian market and warned that a similar fate could befall the country if immediate steps were not taken to rectify the situation.
“We have had situations where technologies developed in Ghana by Ghanaian scientists in Ghanaian public research institutions have found their way in other countries that are helping those countries’ economies and yet Ghana has not benefited from those exports simply because there was no legal framework to formalise the movement of those products to those countries,” he bemoaned.
Mr Vitumbiko Chinoko, Project Manager of OFAB, said agricultural biotechnology was an important tool to improve agriculture productivity, however, it still remained under-utilised, especially in Africa.
He, therefore, urged African governments to accept and allow the commercialisation of genetically modified crops to ensure all year-round food availability.
Mr Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw, Head of OFAB Ghana Chapter, encouraged Government to recommission the Board of the National Biosafety Committee to give “environmental release for researchers to continue their research into biotech crops.”
Dr Rose Maxwell Gidado, Country Coordinator for OFAB Nigeria, called on African governments to invest more in biotechnology agriculture to boost productivity and ensure food security.
Nigeria became the first country on the continent to produce biotech crops when in 2019, it approved the commercial release of genetically modified cowpea.