CropLife Ghana, through the Cross-Platform Initiative, has been organizing a series of awareness workshops on plant biotechnology since 2014. This, to create a platform where experts from industry, farmers, civil society organizations and stakeholders can discuss the pros and cons of plant biotechnology and its effect on agriculture in Ghana. This has also become even more relevant in the wake of discussions in recent times on the media landscape and amongst Civil Society Organizations and Research Institutions.
The 1-day workshop was to enlighten CropLife Ghana members, Seed producers, Seed Traders Association of Ghana (STAG) and opinion leaders by exposing them to the basics of plant biotechnology and to the regulation of the technology in the country. This was also intended to expose members to a “confined field trial” of a GM crop in the country.
Specific Objectives of the day were:
To provide CropLife Ghana members, Seed producers, STAG and opinion leaders in the Northern part of Ghana with practical, evidence-based information on plant biotechnology and biosafety;
To help neutralize the misinformation regarding biotechnology and biosafety in the country;
To provide a platform for an open interaction among stakeholders on issues of concern with regards to biosafety;
To give first-hand experience to CropLife Ghana members, Seed producers, STAG and opinion leaders on a confined field trial of a GM crop.
The workshop was organized by CropLife Ghana, Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) and the CSIR Savannah Agriculture Research Institute (SARI).
Following the formal opening by William Kotey, President of CropLife Ghana, Fred Boampong, Program Manager for CropLife Ghana, gave a presentation on “CropLife Ghana’s stance on Agricultural Technological Innovations”.
In his presentation, Dr. Ofosu (PBS) covered the risk element of GMO technology. He stated that crops produced using GMO technologies can be said to be safer than those using conventional plant breeding procedures as the former goes through more rigorous tests. “Conventionally produced crops are only assessed once they are ready for release, but with GMOs, assessment begins from the lab to growth chamber to confined fields before general release”.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is currently undertaking field trials of GMO cowpea, cotton, and rice before these are released onto the market. These crops are either resistant to pests or tolerant to unfavorable soil conditions or have increased nutrition values. They are not expected to reach the local market until after 2018.
Several Civil Society Groups have protested the introduction of the technology, claiming there are inherent negative health, environment and economic implications for their application, but Director of BNARI, Prof. Kenneth Danso disagrees. He explained that the method of GMO seed production is only an improved form of conventional breeding procedures which is applied only when all other methods to fix a particular food production challenge fails.
Prof Danso said GMOs will help enhance productivity on the farms and ensure “food security, higher economic benefits for farmers, a safe environment through reduced use of pesticides and production of more nutritious crops.”
Former Director-General of the CSIR, Prof. Walter Alhassan told participants the global GMO seed industry is growing rapidly and Ghana must not be left behind in the spread of this technology driving the agric sector. He quoted research from other parts of the world to show that GMO seeds have increased the profit margins of farmers quite dramatically.
Coordinator of the Seed Traders Association of Ghana, Thomas Havor, said farmers are keen to get access to GMO seed varieties, once they have gone through the necessary regulatory procedures, saying “the earlier we get into production using GMO seeds, the better.”