A Senior Scientist at the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR-STEPPRI, Dr. Richard Ampadu Ameyaw has dispelled the fear and apprehension that farmers and Ghanaians at large have about genetically modified crops saying, there is nothing chemical or artificial about the process.
Speaking to farmers at an agricultural forum organised by the Alliance for Science in partnership with Somanya based Rite FM, the Researcher who is also the National Coordinator for the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology, OFAB, strongly emphasised that the current development in the area of Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, is only one of the many aspects of agricultural biotechnologies available to improve crop yield and disease resistance. He said farmers have the option of choosing among a wide range of these applications as the GM technology is coming to serve a complementary role in the cultivation of crops.
“The GMO crops that are being developed are not coming to replace the conventional bread crops. Get that one clear. The crops that are going to be engineered through GM technology are not going to replace. They are just going to complement them,” he stressed.
“Before Obaatanpa, Dobidi and the rest, didn’t we have some maize crops already? When these ones came did they come to replace them?” He queried.
Dr. Ameyaw noted that the issue on food security is not only about having a bumper harvest but also very much about controlling diseases and pest so as to increase the storage and quality span of the crop. He said through the use of genetically modified crops, the farmer can reduce the amount of chemicals used in spraying for disease and pest control, prevent environmental pollution and increase the economic viability of his produce.
“We always spray. For example, those who do cowpea; if you don’t spray at all, not at least six times in the crops life cycle. Now if the cowpea is engineered to withstand the disease, such that before the plant comes up the insect cannot attack it so that you will have your crop, would you not like this? Apart from not spraying or spraying maybe two times, you would also save yourself and save the environment, especially our water bodies,” he said.
A national best farmer and chairman of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana, Davies Narh Korboe noted, that with the looming threat of climate change and wide spread incidence of crop pest and diseases, coupled with the need to see agriculture as a business, biotechnology and especially the branch of Crop Genetic Modification is the way to go.
He called for further and a more inclusive farmer education to improve the levels of understanding of the process and development in the area. He said it has become very important for government and all stakeholders to ensure national food security by combining the gains of biotechnology with adequate investment in mechanisation within the agricultural sector.
Currently, Scientists, Researchers and agronomists are experimenting with GM technology at a Confined Field Trial(CFT) stage, where crops are being tested for various outcomes on a highly restricted and non-market basis. However, according to a deputy minister of Food and Agriculture, George Oduro Boahen, Ghana has not as yet developed any comprehensive policy on the cultivation, usage and marketing of Genetically Modified Crops.
Story By: Nana Agyeman-Prempeh