Vice-Chancellor advocates production of GM foods
Professor Elias Nortaa Kunedeb Sowley, the Vice-Chancellor of Dr Hilla Limann Technical University, says the production of Genetically Modified (GM) foods should be encouraged in the country since they can be produced without using pesticides.
He said, “GM crops have inherent properties that help them to resist pests and diseases. Through genetic engineering, they are able to resist pests and diseases. So, you do not need to spread a lot of chemicals to control GM crops. GM crops are safer than crops that are excessively spread using pesticides.”
He added that “We are just pretending that we do not want to grow GM crops. We are eating them. So, what is the difference? What are we importing from other places; are we able to guarantee that they are not from GM crops or GMOs?
Professor Sowley, who is a Professor of Plant Protection, made the call when delivering his inaugural lecture at the University for Development Studies (UDS) in Tamale on the topic: “Pesticides Use in Agriculture: Benefits and Implications for the Environment and Human Health”.
Professor Sowley, whose lecture was the 14th in the series of inaugural lectures organised by the UDS, was the Dean of Graduate School of the UDS when he was appointed in June 2021 as the Vice-Chancellor of Dr Hilla Limann Technical University in Wa.
Various researchers have shown that GM crops are safe for human consumption, but there are still some interest groups in the country, who do not want such technology to be adopted citing issues of safety.
However, the National Biosafety Authority recently approved the environmental release and placing on the market of GM cowpea in the country, saying “It does not present an altered environmental risk or food or feed safety concern when compared to conventional cowpea varieties in Ghana.”
Professor Sowley said, “Since the world’s population is increasing, more food will be needed. So, farmers will need to increase food production and this cannot be achieved without the use of pesticides.”
He, however, said, “the excessive use of pesticides to increase food production may result in serious environmental crisis” such as loss of soil fertility, depletion of nutrient reserves, salinization, pollution amongst others as well as effects on human health.
He said, “we can never do away with pesticides. They will be needed. That is why we need to blend them with other approaches” hence the call to encourage the production of GM crops and foods.
Professor Sowley said traces of restrictive or banned pesticides were found in food produced in the country, which meant that such chemicals were in the local markets.
He, therefore, called on relevant state agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority to act to stop the distribution, sale and use of all banned or restricted pesticides in the country.
He also called for strict enforcement of laws and regulations pertaining to the importation, sale and use of pesticides to protect the environment and the population.
Professor Sowley gave other measures to minimise the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment and human beings, saying “To minimise consumption of contaminated fruits and vegetables, Ghanaians should cultivate some of the common ones in their gardens or backyards and also patronise the indigenous ones, which grow naturally.”
He advised that “Farmers, pesticide sellers and applicators should be properly trained by agricultural extension officers on proper handling, storage, use of protective clothes/equipment and disposal of leftover pesticides.”
He called on health authorities to liaise with the relevant state agencies to monitor the effects of pesticides on human health to inform government policy on the reduction or elimination of pesticide poisoning or other harmful effects.
Professor Gabriel Ayum Teye, Vice-Chancellor of UDS, who chaired the event, urged all to stop using pesticide/chemical containers for carrying and storing water as this was dangerous to human health.