Ghana plans for Genetically Modified Organisms into food production
Addis Ababa June 12 , 2012 (WIC) -The Ghanaian government is ready to introduce Genetically Modified Organisms into food production through its agencies in the country. After passing the Biosafety Act, (Act 831, 2011) in November 2011, the government agencies to be responsible for regulation, research and implementation are being set up and strengthened to ensure a safe introduction of the high yielding and disease and weather resistant seeds into the country's food crop production. Director for Plant Protection at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) Vesper Suglo said the country was in the process of domesticating the Cartagena protocol by developing biosafety regulations to dictate the procedures and standards for enforcing the Act. "We are now carrying out contained field trials to screen GM materials and establish their suitability for the country," Suglo said in an interview with Xinhua recently.
After this, the director said stakeholders would embark on a campaign to create awareness among farmers and consumers, for their acceptance before permit can be granted by the biosafety authority to release varieties of GM crops into the system.
According to Suglo, the West African country needs GM foods because of their favorable characteristics, stressing that this would help the West African country achieve and sustain food security. "They have higher yields than the conventional and also are resistant to diseases, weather and natural occurrences such as floods and drought," he stressed.
On their safety, Suglo averred, "There is no single evidence in any publication that GM foods have any adverse effect on any animal or humans," adding that with the new Act, the country was on the path to introducing GM crops into its agriculture production.
The country has already set up its biosafety Authority with the powers to regulate the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the country. Secretary to the Biosafety Authority, Eric Amaning Okoree told participants in a workshop on June 8 that GM foods would induce decrease in food prices due to lower costs and higher yield. "As people in poor countries spend over half of their income on food alone, lower food prices mean an automatic reduction of poverty," he stressed.
Okoree also anticipated that the high yielding food crop cultivation would lead to less starvation in the world due to decreased food prices, while more nutrition would also be available in the food produced, according to empirical evidence. He however conceded that GMOs could pose potential harm to other organisms, as genes and their effect included in a crop might turn out to be poisonous to insects as the example of monarch butterfly being poisoned by GMO corns. According to Okoree, "Cross-pollination with traditional, organic plants" was also possible as cross pollination can occur at quite long distances. "New genes may also be included in the offspring of the traditional, organic crops miles away.
This makes it difficult to distinguish which crop field is organic, and which is not, posing a problem to the proper labeling of non-GMO food products," he cautioned. Okoree added that the new technology could also cause a spread of new, more resistant "super weeds."
Consequent to the world food crisis, Ghana since 2008 has been implementing measures aimed at ensuring food security for the country. Some of the measures include subsidies on farm inputs including fertilizer, seeds and mechanization. This year government has allocated 120.3 million Ghana cedi (about 63 million U.S dollars) for 176,000 metric tons, while allocating 4.8 million cedis for 151,000 metric tons certified improved seed. Food inflation in the West African country have been rising as a result of crop failure attributed to poor weather conditions last year in a country that depends largely on rain-fed crop cultivation.
However, Volta Regional Director of MOFA, John Tsraku wondered how the authorities expected Ghanaians to discuss GM foods effectively when they knew nothing about them. "Europe is not interested in GM food cultivation," he suggested in an interview with Xinhua, adding that people in western countries paid premium prices for natural food, and so "why is Ghana rushing to adopt GM foods?" But a senior research scientist at the Crop Research Institute (CRI) James Asibuo emphasized that the country had not started commercialization of GM foods. "Ghana is not growing GM foods, but plans are far advanced to test GM materials under controlled situations," he told Xinhua on Friday. Source: Xinhua
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