The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is developing products and services critical to jump-starting Ghana's industrialisation.

Unfazed by its daunting financial and resource constraints, the council has innovatively developed the technique of manufacturing egg powder (whole egg, egg yolk powder and albumen powders, as well as egg oil) that is suited for use in the country's environment.

According to its management, the council now strategically positioned to team up with industrialists or businesses to produce the items commercially.

The effort has come with so much sacrifice on the part of scientists who have had to improvise with equipment to get desired outcomes.

Tackling glut

The Director of the CSIR Animal Research Institute, Professor Emmanuel K. Adu, told the Daily Graphic that a glut in egg production that sometimes led to farmers destroying their produce impassioned him on the course of getting the technology for the production of the products.

Ghana produces 1.5 million eggs daily and according to the Ghana National Association of Poultry Farmers, in peak production periods, the country faces a glut on the market with some going bad.

Farmers then have to destroy up to 10 per cent of what they produce annually, according to the association.

Know-how

Thus, Prof. Adu got to work with his scientists to apply already-existing knowledge in the production of egg powder, egg oil and albumen, suited to local needs but viable internationally.

The innovation by the CSIR will ensure that Ghanaians have eggs, which have quality protein, throughout the year, in the form of powder which can be used in confectionery and pastries, egg oil used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products and powdered albumen, which is the raw material for manufacturing surgical adhesives and, which is currently the preferred suturing material for certain delicate tissues like the conjuctiva.

“Now the know-how is with us,” Prof. Adu said.

 

 

Partnerships/vision

According to the CSIR, producing the product in commercial quantities locally would save the confectionery and industrial sector money in their importation.
“Mind you, this is not a totally new idea.

“We localised an existing knowledge in order not to re-invent the wheel,” he said.

Having taken the decision, the CSIR’s next hurdle was finding the right production equipment.

“We put our heads together and realised that the equipment could not be easily obtained locally. We, therefore, had to improvise. I had a machine and we brought it in, unfortunately, it was subject to frequent breakdowns,” Prof. Adu recounted.

“We realised it was not only the powder, but we could generate oil from the egg and we also discovered that we could separate the albumen from the yolk,” he added.

He said the discoveries were in harmony with his vision of making the CSIR Animal Research Institute relevant by developing usable products for the public when he became the director.

“So that is the task we have set ourselves. We think that we have to drive industry; we have to be able to create industries by these innovations. We needed to put out there relevant technology packages for all, by developing products with industrial application. That is when people will say our work is relevant,” he added.

“Other ideas we have is the production of collagen used in cosmetic surgical treatment from pig skin and from ‘welle’. We are also looking at producing gelatin used in pharmaceuticals,” he said.

Resourcing scientists

For Prof. Adu, the work of the scientists was to innovate for industries and commercial concerns.

He said the CSIR was open for private partnerships for the commercial production of the items.

Currently, the institute has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a feed manufacturer to produce black soldier fly larvae for feed production, thereby cutting down on feed costs per ton and with animals performing better on that than other animal protein.

Prof. Adu said he was not in support of the idea of research institutions becoming commercial entities, that is generating 30 per cent of their revenue or funding.

That policy worked well in jurisdictions with vibrant industries that could be resorted to for funding when there were challenges.

“The government must rethink this policy, by this policy it is wasting talent when it does not support scientists to innovate, but expects them to look for funding from an already-stressed industrial sector,” he maintained.

Prof. Adu was of the view that prioritizing was the key in the use of scarce resources and in funding research institutions.

Sights of CSIR

Touring the Animal Research Institute with a Principal Technologist, Mr. Thomas Agyei Ansong and the Daily Graphic got to see the improvised machine used for the technique of powdering eggs.

Mr Ansong said, their products were comparable to any internationally, with a shelf life of up to 10 years for the egg albumen.

The improvised dehydrator, originally for drying fruits and nuts on a small scale, had broken down, requiring the institute to acquire a proper one now.

An innovative solar dryer designed by the institute traps sunlight in an enclosure to dry meat, herbal medicine, fish and other food products requiring a solar-drying procedure.

Another innovation is the spraying of sawdust with Indigenous Micro-Organisms (IMO) in pigsties, which apart from acting as an absorbent for their waste, sufficiently breaks down the sawdust for the pigs to also feed on, halting the cost of feeding and with good results.

Interestingly, it acted in a manner that no smell emanated from the pigsties.

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.

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.

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

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