Hundreds of farmers in parts of the Eastern Region have been educated on the concept of genetically modified organisms (GMO) at a forum organised for stakeholders in the agricultural sector
The Alliance for Science Ghana and Programme for Biosafety Systems organised the forum, in collaboration with Ensign College of Public Health and Rite FM, a local radio station that focuses on the agricultural sector.
It was on the theme: “The Role of Modern Technology in Improving Agricultural Productivity and Livelihood.”
The National Coordinator of the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Dr Richard Ampadu Ameyaw, 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.”
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He said although genetically modified technology had not been adopted in Ghana yet, it would serve as the best solution to food security.
He indicated that with GMO, the nation would not have experienced the recent challenge of the fall armyworm because GMOs were engineered to be disease and pest-resistant.
“GMO will save farmers money as they will not have to spray their crops 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,” he said.
Farming as business
The President of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana (NFFAWAG), Mr Davies Narh Korboe, called for the intensification of awareness of biotechnology because not much had been done in that regard.
He called for a national dialogue on the issue of GMO for a decision to be taken on the way forward as it appeared that the state was currently divided, with some being for it while others were against GMO.
No policy on GMO
A Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr George Oduro, said the government had not adopted GMO as an agricultural policy.
During the open forum, some of the farmers said the scientists were concealing some of the negative effects of GMOs from the public, as they were only propagating the positive aspects.
“We have heard here that if an animal which is a pest attempts to eat a GMO crop that is engineered to be pest-resistant, the animal will die. Anything that can kill an animal can kill human beings too,” one of the farmers said.
They pleaded with the government to procure farming equipment such as irrigation facilities, tractors and other implements that could be put into a pool at the district offices to be rented out to farmers who could not afford them as part of interventions to transform the agricultural sector.
GMOs have been a topical issue in Ghana since 2011. Activist groups, including Food Sovereignty Ghana, the Coalition For Farmers' Rights, Advocacy Against GMOs, Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and various individuals have argued against its introduction.
The Biosafety Act 2011 (Act 831) has already permitted the introduction of GM foods on “confined field trials” including GM rice and cowpea in the Ashanti Region and cotton in the three northern regions.
GM seeds have "terminator technology”, a genetic composition that makes it impossible for seeds from one season to be replanted in the next.
This results in farmers having to purchase new seeds during every planting season.