Friday, 6 September 2013
By Fred Yaw Sarpong
Ghana has started the field trail of planting some Genetically Modified (GM) seeds at Nnoboam, near Konongo in the Ashanti region and Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) premises.
Ghana adopted three main varieties of seeds to be tried at specific locations across the country. The three seeds which were imported into the country are Bt Rice, Bt Cowpea and Bt Cotton. Professor Walter S. Alhassan, a member of National Biosafety Committee (NBC) said this in an interview that the committee took the delivery of the seeds and handed them over to SARI and the breeders in charge of the field trails. According to him the committee is seriously monitoring the success of the field trails. Mr. Erick Okoree, the Secretary to the Committee explained that the Bt Cotton was imported to Ghana barely three months ago and it came from South Africa.
The other two seeds, Bt Rice and Bt Cowpea came from Siat in Columbia and Australia respectively. According to Mr. Okoree Cowpea seeds arrived in Ghana on Monday August 29, 2013. He stated that the reason why the seeds were imported from those countries were because the seeds have been tried and doing well in those countries. He stated that the Bt Cotton and the rice have already been planted at the identified field trail locations, except the Cowpea which is yet to be planted. A rice breeder, Dr. Kofi Dartey is handling the Bt Rice while the other two are been handle by SARI.
However, the Bt Cotton is been planted in seven different locations. ‘This is because the Bt Cotton breeders are trying to see how it will perform well in those locations,’ said Okoree. Apart from SARI, most of the locations are around the northern part of the country close to the Burkina Faso. The northern part areas were chosen because of Burkina Faso having experience in Bt Cotton cultivation.
Ghana become a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in 1992, and mandated to implement anything under this protocol, especially when the country has passed into law Ghana’s Biosafety Bill (Act 831) on 31st December 2011.
However, the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), which the bill envisages as the implementing agency of the law, is yet to be inaugurated by the President.
Before Ghana’s Biosafety Law come into force, a lot has been done at the national level to complement the protocol, since it was ratified on 29 December, 1993. While awaiting the passing of the Biosafety Law, a Legislative Instrument 1887 was passed on 30 November 2007 to allow for laboratory research in modern biotechnology.
The introduction of Policies, Legislations and Regulations for biotechnology/biosafety is to enhance the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
Although there are no genetically modified (GM) crops in the country, Ghanaians are gradually becoming aware of genetically modified crops through the print and electronic media. There are a lot of both positive and negative information about genetically modified crops.
After the passage of the Biosafety law, a lot has taken place to introduce biosafety crops in the country. The National Biosafety Committee (NBC) has engaged stakeholder’s notably regulatory agencies, academia, researchers, farmers, civil society and policy makers in awareness creation and training workshops about biosafety.
Research Institutions and academia as well as the regulatory agencies have made significant improvements in physical facilities paving the way for relevant research in modern biotechnology in Ghana.