By Joyce Gyekye
The Science, Technology and Innovation wing of the African Union Development Agency of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD is assisting six countries to develop their Genome Editing Communication strategies.
Starting with Ghana, a five-day consultative meeting with stakeholders including biotechnology experts, senior officials from government institutions, the media and the private sector has taken place in Accra to that effect.
Genome Editing is the use of precision technology to get the best genetic material of the same plant or animal to enhance agricultural production.
Supervisor of the African Union Development Agency– NEPAD Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Olalekan Akinbo in an interview said the technology does not use a foreign gene to enhance crop or animal production as done in genetically modified organisms, GMO’s.
He explained that ‘genome editing silences an unwanted gene of a same plant or animal to get the best gene to enhance crop and animal production”.
Welcoming participants, the Director General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR, Prof. Paul Bosu commended AUDA-NEPAD for the initiative of assisting member countries to develop their genome communication strategies and expressed CSIR’s readiness towards that of Ghana.
He said “science and technology will continue to play a critical role towards improving agricultural productivity and improving farmers’ health and wealth”.
He stressed the importance of a communication strategy to address misinformation and misconceptions about the technology.
Of the fifty-five AU countries, only six of them have been selected by AUDA-NEPAD for assistance to develop a Genome Editing Communication strategy due to lack of funding. The counties are Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zambia and Eswatini. Dr. Akinbo said these countries were selected because the political will for the technology already exists, including policy environment and biosafety acts.
He was hopeful that given the needed resources, the six lead countries would have their genome communication strategy in place in three years. This will then be replicated in six other countries later.
Benefits of Genome Editing:
Head of Science, Technology and Innovation wing of the AUDA-NEPAD, Dr Olalekan Akinbo said genome editing “ reduces biodiversity loss by 70 percent as spraying of chemicals is reduced due to good quality seeds”.
Also, the technology promotes food security since good quality seeds are a prerequisite for increased crop production. According to him “ the technology prolongs shelf lives of crops like tomatoes by suppressing a chemical that triggers ripening.