Source:  Myjoyonline.com | Abubakar Ibrahim

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has suspended trials of GMO cotton in the country after US Company Monsanto withdrew funding.

Monsanto, the world’s leading Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seeds producer is facing challenges in Burkina Faso after that country rejected GMO cotton and began a phased withdrawal of the novel products. Farmers have now returned to growing conventional seeds.

The trials being undertaken by CSIR scientists form part of regulatory requirements before the GMO cotton can be commercialized in Ghana. The development means there will be no GMO cotton for farmers to make use of anytime soon.

Work on the project froze in 2016 but Researcher at the Savaanah Agric Research Institute (SARI) of the CSIR and Principal Investigator on the project Dr. Emmanuel Chamba tells Joy news it’s now been officially suspended.

“After two years of the on-station confined field trials, the next step was to go to the farmers’ field. After which we will be thinking of commercial release. Unfortunately, because of the situation in Burkina Faso, Monsanto pulled out.

"And because Monsanto was funding the program, they suspended it in Ghana also,” Dr. Chamba explained in an interview with Joy News’ Joseph Opoku Gakpo.

The GMO cotton known as Bt cotton, has been engineered to naturally resist attacks by the bollworm insect and other pests. The trials began in 2012. It was supposed to last for about six years before the GMO cotton can get to the market.

The trials had proved promising as less pesticides were used on GMO cotton fields in the Northern Region, compared to conventionally produced ones. Whilst cotton farmers have to spray fields up to six times within the cotton plant’s life cycle for conventional varieties, only two cycles of spray was needed on the GMO fields as the seeds had inbuilt resistance to the pests.

Dr. Chamba says farmers are worried they will not get the benefit of growing GMO seeds for a long time to come. “At the moment, we are going back to the conventional variety. Where they have to be spraying (pesticides) several times.

"Nobody wants to spray so many times. But because we have not concluded the experiment, farmers cannot grow that variety,” Dr. Chamba lamented.

mosanto

Dr. Chamba, however, says they are not giving up. They are looking for fresh donor support to resume the trials in Ghana for the benefit of farmers. “If we can get money from any other place to finish the trial, we will welcome it and finish the trials,” he stated.

GMO cotton was made available to farmers in Burkina Faso in 2010 and by 2013, 70 percent of all cotton grown in that country was GMO. But concerns arose that fibre produced from the GMO cotton was low compared to the conventional.

The cotton fibre resulting from GMO cotton reportedly had shorter length. But in the textiles industry, the length of the fibre is crucial because the longer ones allow for several spinning rounds thereby producing better quality textiles.

The shorter fibre resulting from GMO cotton drew protests from cotton companies in Burkina Faso, resulting in a decision in 2015 for a phased withdrawal of the GMO variety. The cotton companies accused Monsanto of deceit and made a formal request demanding 100 million US Dollars in compensation.

Edwin Baffuor of Food Sovereignty Ghana believes this is a lesson for Ghana not to adopt the technology. “The Burkina case shows clearly that some of the expected outcomes as promised the farmers won’t be realized. And this is part of the red flag that we have been raising for a while now. And it can’t be closer to home than this. The outcomes of GMOs are unknown in the long term,” he told Gakpo in an interview.

Food Sovereignty Ghana is not the first organisation to raise this red flag. Associate Professor at the Department of International Development Studies at Dalhousie University in Canada, Prof. Matthew A. Shnurr who has done extensive research on the impact of GMO crops on African economies, issued a similar caution in the past.

“These problems with poor quality lint resulted from the introgression of the Bt trait into the local variety. If Ghana is planning on replicating this same process, they might risk producing similar results,” he told Joy news.

“I am skeptical that GM cotton or maize will offer benefits to small-scale African farmers,” he added.

But Plant Breeder with Burkina Faso’s National Research Institute Dr. Edgar Traore insists the technology did not fail his people. He says work is ongoing to correct the errors that resulted in the poor fibre quality and get the GMO cotton back on the market.

“The technology is good, but the technology met a technical problem that has a solution. So even [members of] the association which was behind the decision to go back to commercial, they are still waiting for better varieties with longer fibre so they can go back to GMOs,” he told Gakpo. 

A former Deputy Agriculture Minister is calling for an end to the bastardisation of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) technology as a bad science for food production.

Dr. Ahmed Alhassan Yakubu says GMO technology (broadly referred to as biotechnology) is the latest scientific innovation that is driving food production across the world and Ghana should not sit on the fence as the technology advances.

“It is a science for the present and the future and Ghana cannot afford to miss the boat…We want Ghana to become a great country and the only way it can happen is through science and technology,” Dr. Yakubu stated.

“The peculiarities of Africa and therefore Ghana should let us have a re-think about the negative dirt that we throw at biotechnology as a science. It is extremely important we do so,” he added.

Dr. Yakubu who is also former Member of Parliament for Mion was speaking to Joy News at a training for science reporters from across the West African sub-region on biotechnology organised by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in Accra.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is currently undertaking trials for GMO cowpea and rice as part of regulatory procedures before they are allowed onto the market, most likely in 2018.

But some civil society groups have raised red flags claiming the adoption of GMO crops will bring devastating health, environmental and economic consequences to the country.

But Project Manager in charge of the Open Forum on Agric Biotechnology at AATF Daniel Otunge says that is inaccurate. He insists there is no scientific evidence to back the claims that GMOs are unsafe.

“The European Union conducted 25 years of research on GMOs before commercialisation and another 10 years after they were commercialized and published a report which concluded that there is no effect of this technology on the environment, human beings and live stock.

"Based on that assurance, we say, why shouldn’t Africa also benefit from this beneficial technology,” he stated.

Assistant Director of the National Biotechnology Development Agency in Nigeria Dr. Rose Gidado who spoke at the training noted that increasing yield is the ultimate role of modern agricultural production and scientific innovation is the only way to achieve this, hence the need to adopt biotechnology.

Dr. Emmanuel Chambas who works with the Savannah Agric Research Institute of the CSIR in Tamale noted that with the adoption of GMO technology, it will be possible for farmers to increase yield whilst using even fewer resources.

 

“Resource poor farmers can still have good yields without fertilizer,” he said.

Source: myjoyonline

SEBASTIAN SYME ;

A water quality monitoring and assessment index of the major rivers of Ghana from 2013 has established a considerable decrease in the quality of water in most of the river basins due to the activities of illegal miners.

The worrying trend, according to the index, which is also the result of the removal of vegetative cover, fertiliser use on farmlands indicated that the activities of illegal mining is shown in the waters by the presence of unusually high floating solids and high turbidity during the dry season.

Poor water quality

The Director of the Water Research Institute, Professor Osmund Ansah-Asare, made this known in Accra on Thursday when the media coalition against galamsey in collaboration with the International Association of Impact Assessment – Ghana (IAIA-Ghana) took their campaign to research scientists to explain the effects of the galamsey menace on the environment to the public.

The coalition which was led by its convener and the Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group Limited met with officials of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) who took the coalition through the consequences of the galamsey menace on the environment.

Prof. Ansah-Asare who gave a power point presentation with harrowing graphic photographs revealing the extent of damage caused the environment by the illegal miners expressed fear that Ghanaians either risked queuing for water or would have to import water in the not too distant future.  

Watch a video of the presentation below

Making a presentation on the state of water quality in the country, he disclosed that the highest areas of poor water quality were found in mining areas and areas of illegal gold mining noting that most of the waters in 2010 had decreased in quality except the River Butre, Tano, and the Barekese Reservoir.

Weal legal regime

He indicated that activities of small-scale miners especially the illegal ones degraded the land more than their counterpart in the large-scale sector due to weak legal regime.

The director added that that what was more disturbing was the fact that the Chinese blocked the water course, denied inhabitants source of drinking water and deteriorated the quality thereby reducing the quantity of water available to the people for drinking purposes.

“The government of Ghana has a task to improve water quality and also reduce treatment cost. Gold mining brings with it arsenic, mercury and sulphur contamination of water bodies, soil and even air,” Prof. Ansah-Asare added.

Among his recommendations were for steps to be taken to legalise galamsey for it to be monitored to ensure sustainability of the environment.

 

Director of the Water Research Institute, Professor Osmund Ansah-Asare

 

Need for concerted approach

Also to make a presentation on the topic “Institutional challenges propping illegal mining; Corrective measures towards sustainable mining” was the President of the IAIA-Ghana, Mr Yaw Amoyaw-Osei, who gave another perspective on the issue saying the complexities and sophistication of galamsey required a multi-pronged, sustained and concerted approach to tackle it.

He underscored the need to entrench sound environment governance arrangement in the mining sector and also address the fundamental risks of institutional failings. He further spoke about defining the types of illegal mining to find the appropriate customised and sustained solutions to them.

He identified some other forms of illegal mining that equally and significantly impacted the environment as transferring a mining license to mine other areas without authorisation, mining several contiguous small scale mining sites often deploying heavy duty equipment and mining with prospective license.

Institutional failures

“Institutional failings in mining sector environment governance has nurtured and propped galamsey into this monumental monster stirring us in the face,” Mr Amoyaw-Osei remarked and added that the setting aside Section 12(2) of Act 490 of the Mining law was an error in law and a sign of poor environmental practice of which the Environmental Protection Agency and the Minerals Commission were answerable.

He recommended among other things that the Minerals Commission identified areas of small scale mining and conduct strategic environmental assessment of any area of those mining areas and the community or district mining cooperatives should apply for the required mineral rights license and conduct the limited impact assessment.

Mr Ashigbey who co-chaired the event with the Deputy Director General of the CSIR, Prof. Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, said the coalition was ready to intensify its campaign to press home its case for Ghanaians to rise up to the effects of the galamsey menace on the environment.

While reiterating the objectives of the coalition to among others name, shame and possibly push for a jail term for offenders, Prof. Entsua-Mensah for her part added her voice to condemn the level of destruction caused the environment and urged Ghanaians to join in the campaign to bring the menace to an end to save the environment from further destruction.

The Media Coalition against Galamsey took its campaign a notch higher with the involvement of scientific researchers in the fight to bring to the attention of the public the effect of galamsey activities on the country’s water bodies.  

Source: Graphic Online

Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), a UK-based inter-governmental not-for-profit organisation, has pledged support for the “Planting for Food and Jobs” initiative being implemented by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA).

CABI, through its capacity-building programme, intends to facilitate the training of agricultural extension agents for them to acquire the necessary skills to drive the project.

Delegation

The Chief Executive Officer of CABI, Dr Trevor Nicholls, made the pledge when he led a delegation to pay a courtesy call on the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, last Friday. The CABI delegation comprised the Director-General for Development, Dr Dennis Rangi; the Director for Africa Region, Dr Morris Akiri; and the Regional Coordinator for West Africa, Dr Victor A. Clottey.

Dr Nicholls and his team have been on a tour of Ghana to hold bilateral discussions with key agencies of government, including CABI’s host, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and other international organisations operating in Ghana.

Collaboration

Briefing the minister on CABI’s activities in Ghana, Dr Nicholls recounted the long-standing relations his organisation has had with the ministry, citing the implementation of the Plantwise project as one of the flagship projects of CABI.

The Plantwise project seeks to improve food security and rural livelihood by reducing crop losses through practical health advice to Ghanaian farmers.

The project, he indicated, would also form the basis of the extension training programme for agricultural extension agents involved in the "Planting for Food and Jobs” initiative of the government.

Dr Nicholls also informed the minister about his organisation’s lead role in the identification of the ‘Fall Army Worm’ that had attacked many crops on the continent. He said CABI had organised a workshop for various stakeholders to find ways of managing the pest in the short, medium to long terms

Commendation

Dr Akoto commended CABI for its efforts to ensure the growth of the agricultural sector in Africa, stating that CABI’s investment in Ghana would go a long way to promote food security.

The CABI delegation was accompanied by the Director-General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Prof. Victor K. Agyeman, and a Senior Scientific Officer at the CSIR Head Office, Mr Edward Decker.

The delegation had earlier called on the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, where their discussions centred on the possibility of establishing a joint laboratory in Ghana and the need to support Ghana in the development of a framework for biodiversity conservation.

The team’s visit to Ghana was climaxed with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between CABI and CSIR on Access and Benefit Sharing in the utilisation of genetic resources.

Details: Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor 

 

The Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has released four new yam varieties. They are Afaase Adepa, Afaase Hoodenfoo, Afaase Biri and Afaase Soanyinto.

The new varieties, which have been tried and evaluated for over 10 years, are said to be very nutritious, high yielding and pest resistant, can be used for ice-cream and noodles and safe for diabetic patients.

Presentation

At a programme to officially introduce the new varieties in Kumasi last Tuesday, the leader of the 11-member team that worked on the new yam varieties, Dr Emmanuel Otoo, explained that the new varieties were improved versions of the water yam currently on the market.

He said research conducted on the new varieties had shown that they could be used as a substitute for white yam which is widely consumed in the country and also be used for other products such as ice-cream and noodles and even in the cosmetic industry for body cream.

According to him, there is a high market demand for the varieties in the sub-region and mentioned countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire where water yam is in high demand.

Dr Otoo said even though demand for water yam was low in the country, there was a high demand for it in neighbouring countries, and as such “Ghana can easily produce the seedlings to supply them”.

Values

He said the new yam varieties could be used for all forms of food and had very high starch content.

He said the new Afaase varieties had health benefits and could be used by diabetic patients, adding that aside from that, they were cheaper and highly profitable when cultivated on a commercial scale.

He appealed to the government to support the institute to produce seedlings of the new varieties to feed into the government’s ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme.

Some of the harvested varieties of the yam at the barn. Pictures: Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor

SOURCE: Graphic Online

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