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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.