Ghanaian farmers will be able to save money and increase their profits if the country adopts Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), scientist Dr. Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw has said.

He says Ghana adopting the technology will also help preserve the environment from contamination through the abuse of chemicals used to fight pests on the farm.

“GMO will save farmers money as they will not have to spray their crops that much against diseases and pests. Currently, we are polluting the environment with the spraying of chemicals to prevent crops from being attacked. With GMO, the production cost of farmers will go down and their yields will go up,” Dr. Ampadu-Ameyaw said at a town hall meeting with farmers in Somanya in the Eastern Region.

Somanya based Rite 90.1 FM and Civil society group Alliance for Science Ghana, with support from Programs for Biosafety Systems organised the forum.

Speaking on the theme: “The Role of Modern Technology in Improving Agricultural Productivity and Livelihood,” Dr. Ampadu Ameyaw who is also the National Coordinator of the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), said “GMO is not a chemical, it is nothing scary but a technology that is used to develop food crops based on the best species.”

Hundreds of farmers from across the Eastern and Greater Accra regions participated in the forum. President of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana (NFFAWAG), Mr Davies Narh Korboe urged farmers to open their minds to the introduction of GMOs as a way to ensure food security in the country.

The 2009 National Best Farmer said it is about time a national dialogue is held on the issue of GMOs which will also serve as a forum to educate farmers and the public about it. “GMOs are not bad. We need more advocacy on biotechnology,” he insisted.

Ghana’s parliament in 2011 passed the Biosafety Act to allow for the production and commercialization of GMOs in the country. There are currently no locally produced GMO products on the market.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is currently undertaking field trials of GMO cowpea, which has an inherent resistance to insect attacks, as well as NEWEST rice, which is nitrogen efficient, water efficient and salt tolerant. The varieties are expected on the market soon, once various regulatory requirements are met.

But some Civil Society Groups have kicked against the plan. Food Sovereignty Ghana has filed a suit in court demanding a ban on the technology and the case is still pending. But various groups including the CSIR, Food and Drugs Authority and National Biosafety Authority have insisted there is nothing harmful about the technology.

Deputy Minister for Agriculture George Oduro told journalists after the forum “GMO is a government policy. We were trying to do this in Ghana in 2012 or 2013. But as I speak to you now, it’s not a policy.  Ghana is not part of GMOs,” he said.

Executive member of Alliance for Science Ghana Reuben Quainoo demanded clarity from government on its specific position on the technology.

“When the Agric Minister appeared before parliament for vetting, he defended it. When the Environment Minister appeared before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, he also insisted GMOs are good.

"The Deputy Director of Crops Services also hinted in January that Ghana will go the GMO way to deal with Fall Armyworm and other pests. Now, this. So, what is government’s position on the issue?” he quizzed.

Mr. Quainoo said the GMOs undertrials will make a huge difference in the agricultural sector when they get onto the market. “The farmers want it. The scientists are producing it for them. We look forward to GMOs helping us transform agriculture once they are released onto the market,” he added.

Prof. Walter Sandow Alhassan, former Director-General at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR, Ghana and OFAB Ghana Chapter Programming Committee member, has said Ghana’s agriculture has good moments in relation to the seed sector in recognising its importance for a vibrant agricultural sector.

However, he emphasised that, most farmers in the country are currently into the traditional farmer-saved seeds, and it is estimated that, only 5% of these farmers uses certified seeds where less than 20% of the seeds are certified.

“The National Seed Plan is encouraging a private sector-led seed industry that will benefit from a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP). If the challenges of the seed value chain are addressed and the Planting for Food and Jobs creates the expected demand pull for quality seed, we can see a vibrant seed industry that will benefit further from an accelerated pace of plant variety” he emphasized.
Prof. Alhassan, therefore challenged the media to up their role in creating the necessary awareness in the farmer for the new technology and for its use.

He was speaking at official launch of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology OFAB Ghana Chapter’s 2018 Media Awards dubbed, “Exemplary Journalism, Credible Science Reporting and better Public Understanding of Science Technology and Innovation.”

This year’s award is aims at recognizing exemplary journalism that stimulates best practices in the adoption of agricultural technologies, particularly agricultural biotechnology.

Mr. Roland Affail Monney, President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), lauded OFAB and its Organizers for such award scheme which will help deepen professionalism of journalists in the country.

Calling on the Organizers for more of such award schemes and the expansion of packages for winners, he charged the media to submit stories for entry and as well as delve more into researching the science and technology areas, which will help them to deliver accurate reportage.

According to the Organizers, deadline for all entry is on 30th June, 2018. The categories are the Print/Online, Radio and Television, whereas considered stories for the awards span between June 2017 to June 2018. The overall winners also have the advantage of competing with other winners from other African countries.

SOURCE: GNA

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment, Science and Technology has recommended to Parliament to re-introduce and pass the Plant Breeders Bill to protect the intellectual rights of seed producers in the country.

The recommendation follows the inability of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to get any benefit from the seeds it developed in 2017 for the Planting for Food and Jobs programme due to the lack of the legislation.

 

The CSIR, in support of the government’s planting for food and jobs programme developed several improved varieties of food including sweet potatoes, cassava, cocoyam and yam.

These crops were adopted by Ghanaian farmers, as well as several other farmers in the West Africa region due to their high level of yield.

However, because there was no legislation to protect the new varieties developed, no benefits accrued to the CSIR.

As a result, the committee in its report on the budget estimates of the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) recommended the re introduction of the Plant Breeders Bill to ensure that patents of the CSIR are protected and benefits accrue to it.

The Plant Breeders Bill, which was put before Parliament in 2013, went through the first and second consideration stages but was put on hold at the third stage when a pressure group, Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), raised alarm that the passage of the bill would lead to the imposition of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into the food chain in Ghana.

The FSG, joined by other civil organisations, argued that the introduction of GMOs would lead to commercial exploit of the poor farmers and, therefore, urged Parliament to defer debate on the bill to allow public consultations to be undertaken prior to the introduction of GMOs in Ghana.

Atomic Energy Commission

The committee also noted that although the Atomic Energy Commission participates in the activities of the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), Ghana stood to lose its voting rights because the country had not paid its contribution to the association since 2016.

The country is expected to pay the association a technical contribution fund allowance, national participation cost and regular budget contribution all amounting to €201,695.

The committee ,therefore, urged the Ministry of Finance to pay up the country’s commitment to IAEA to ensure that it does not lose its vote on issues on Atomic Energy, as well as other benefits that may accrue to the Atomic Energy Commission in terms of technical support and equipment.

Nuclear Regulatory Authority

The committee also noted with concern that the Nuclear Regulatory Authority which was set up by law was yet to receive the needed support to function optimally.

The authority still relies on the Atomic energy Commission for support in terms of human resource as it was yet to receive approval to recruit the about 40 new staff that seeks to engage.

The authority was also not able to utilise its Internally Generated Funds (IGF) as support to its operations because the Ministry of Finance (MoF) was yet to capture it as a non-tax revenue organisation.

The committee was, however, satisfied to note that the MESTI was taking steps to ensure that the MoF gave approval for the generation and utilisation of the IGF by the authority.

It was again realised that the authority spent an amount of GH¢ 968,614 for the servicing of vehicles and night allowance when it needed funds to purchase new cars to aid in its activities.

The committee considered the practice as unacceptable and urged MESTI to take a further look at the activities of the authority to ensure that such practices were curbed.

 

Source: Graphic Online

A Senior Scientist at the council for scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr. Richard Ampadu Ameyaw, has appealed to Ghanaian journalists to show more interest in agriculture, science and biotechnology reporting in order to promote credible, evidence-based science information delivery on agriculture bio-technology to the public.

“There is the need to recognise journalists who has contributed to this debate that is to tell the truth as to what technology is all about “he noted.

He was speaking at the 2018 Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Media Awards Ceremony dubbed, “Exemplary Journalism, Credible Science Reporting and better Public Understanding of Science Technology and Innovation, on Friday 24th August, 2018, in Accra.

Dr. Ampadu said, the event would not only clear the issues that borders on the subject but will also go a long way to cure the perception and mistrust between scientist and journalists, in order to promote excellence in science journalism for a sustainable agriculture.

However, he noted that, public education were still ongoing with respect to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) foods.

Professor Kenneth Danso, Director of Biotechnology and Nuclear Agric Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, on his part underscored the need to bridge the gap between scientists and the media to enhance science and technology education in the country.

He was of the view that, there was the need to support the country’s agricultural sector with technology to increase production for industries that uses agriculture material and as well as improve the livelihood of farmers.

Dr. Yakubu Alhassan, former Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), also called on the various tertiary institutions to adopt communication of science and interpretation of scientific components into their curricula to give science students a better opportunity of enabling the world to know and understand the results of research.

He said, an investment and business communication dimensions were not current subject scientists could add, he therefore, urged journalists to be stakeholders and communicators to that effect.

“Journalists therefore, need some motivation because it becomes important for journalists, who opt to report on science and agriculture to be able to do it efficiently,” Dr. Yakubu emphasized.

Dr. George Owusu Essegbey, a former Director, CSIR, Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI), the chairman of the event, noted that, journalists who evaluated science and develop interest in scientific reporting are worth celebrating. Adding that “we need to honour those who educate the public on relevant things under science, technology and innovation.”

He said, this was very necessary because, science reporting was a noble mission that needs much more attention when it comes to communication.

This year’s awards, which was the second edition according to the organizers saw a much more improvement of entries across the country as compared to that of last year.

There were three (3) categories, the print/online, TV and radio. Three (3) outstanding Journalists were awarded for writing on and creating the awareness of biotechnology and genetically modified organisms in Ghana and Africa as a whole.

The outstanding awardees were, Iddi Z Yire, who is an editor at GNA in Accra becoming the 1st runner-up in the print/online category. He took home Gh¢800,00, an iPad, a plaque and a.hamber, while the winner in that category was Prosper Kwame Kuorsoh, who also writes for GNA in WA. He took home a cash prize of Gh¢ 1,000,00, an iPad, a plaque and a hamper.

Philip Bagyiliko Tengzu, a reporter for radio Mark, WA in the Upper west Region also emerged as winner in the radio category. He took home an amount of Gh¢ 1,000,00, an iPad, a plaque and a hamper.

On behalf of the winners, Prosper Kuorsoh, thanked organizers of the OFAB Awards for the opportunity and the great exposure. He also assured them of their continuous accurate reportage on agric, science and biotechnology, and the awareness on genetically modified organisms in Ghana and Africa.

Meanwhile, the winners would be participating in this year’s OFAB Africa Regional Awards which would be held in September in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Launched in May 2013, OFAB Ghana, was birthed by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a platform that provides an opportunity for biotechnology stakeholders to network, share knowledge, experiences together and allow them to explore new avenues of bringing the benefits of biotechnology to the African farmer and investor.

It has however been in partnership with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS), and the AATF to bring journalists who have excelled in reporting on biotechnology to the limelight.

The Governing Council of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has said it will pursue the commercialisation of the CSIR as one of the measures to make it more effective and boost its contribution to national development.

Speaking to the management and staff of the CSIR-Water Research Institute (WRI) at a staff durbar in Accra yesterday, the Chairman of the Governing Council, Prof. Robert Kingsford-Adaboh, said that would mean making the goods and services produced by the council more accessible to the public and competitive.

“Commercialisation will help the CSIR harness its potential of making money for itself and the state,” he said.

He proposed the institution of two big trade fairs in a year to be organised by the CSIR to showcase its products and services and make it more visible to the public.

Prof. Kingsford-Adaboh stressed that the CSIR had the potential to increase its internally generated funds, as well as its financial contribution to the state.

He undertook a tour of duty to the institutes under the CSIR to familiarise himself with their operations and challenges and begin a discourse on how to improve their operations.

Sustainable development

Prof. Kingsford-Adaboh said there could be no meaningful and sustainable development without science, technology and innovation and, therefore, the CSIR should be seen and should act as the government’s right-hand man.

He said if science, technology and innovation were the engines of sustainable growth, then the CSIR had the growth of the country in its hands and urged them to be hardworking to deliver on their mandate.

He appealed to the staff to go the extra mile to enhance the contribution of the CSIR to national development and in return, their working conditions would automatically improve.

“It is time for us to shift from the paradigm where we see the CSIR as a government institute and, therefore, think that the work could be approached with a lackadaisical attitude,” he said.

He assured the staff and management that the governing council would not interfere with the management of the CSIR but would support it according to its mandate to put the CSIR on the right footing to deliver better on its mandate.

Financial targets

The Director-General of the CSIR, Dr Victor K. Agyeman, bemoaned the phenomenon of most of the institutes making losses and not meeting their financial targets.

He was of the opinion that although the council was faced with financial challenges, it had enough assets and human resources to maximise to generate more internal funds and eventually more funds for the state.

“We are making financial losses because we are not competitive, our products and services are higher than others on the market and it’s about time we think outside the box to do things differently,” he said.

As a result of the situation, Dr Agyeman hinted that the management and staff of all the institutes under the CSIR had begun a dialogue on how to reverse the trend.

The Director of the CSIR Water Research Institute, Dr Osmund Duodu Ansa-Asare, said the WRI was ready to collaborate with the management and governing council to enhance the operations of the CSIR to deliver on its mandate effectively.

Soruce: Graphic online

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