A battle over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is building in
Civil society groups and at least one opposition party have positioned themselves to fight against the introduction of GMOs.
"The state should support sustainable farming by providing the necessary resources, infrastructure and enough technical personnel." -- Dr.
The BT Cowpea is among three other crops - cotton, rice and sweet potatoes - which have been cleared for confined trials and evaluation. Scientists will seek to create a cowpea variety resistant to the pod borer or maruca, a species of moth that targets bean crops.
The choice of cowpeas, known elsewhere as blackeyed peas, is important because the legume plays a vital role in the nutritional needs of Ghanaians, especially those in the
Amando complained that he spends
"I spray the farm every week to reduce pests and insects, especially the maruca, and I harvest four 84-kilogramme sacks during a good season," he said.
Dr. Ibrahim Dzido Kwasi Atokple, project coordinator of the government's CFTs, said that the project seeks to contribute to food security and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by reducing the pod's damage, promote grain quality and reduce seasonal crop loss.
"Pod borer infestation is a major constraint to cowpea production in
"In the absence of resistance genes in the cowpea germplasm, a new [biotechnological] innovation has identified a resistance gene from a bacteria species [Bacillus thuringensis]. This has been transferred into the local cowpea variety to kill the pod borer and also reduce the harmful effect of many insecticide sprays the farmers are exposed to."
Atokple said the innovation was developed and evaluated through a joint public-private partnership with the
"From the trial the identified pod borer-resistant cowpea lines will be crossed with the commercial cowpea varieties in
Atokple is convinced that the national annual production of cowpea - today around 205,000 metric tonnes - could be increased by 30 percent with a new GMO crop.
"I think some people do not understand the issue of GMO very well and this is because it is just an innovation to address challenges. There are many countries that had adopted and are using GMO foods," Addae told IPS.
The plant, said Adde, would continue to be a major staple crop among Ghanaians who cannot afford to buy meat and fish.
Addae said a technical advisory committee has been formed to conduct risk assessment into all GMO applications in the country.
But doubts remain.
Ali-Masmadi Jehu-Appiah, chairperson of Food Sovereignty Ghana, a civil society organisation, has called on the government to place an immediate moratorium on the cultivation, importation and consumption of genetically modified foods.
"We are making this appeal as a Ghanaian grassroots food advocacy movement, after credible reports of the start of cultivation of GM seeds in the country. Our group calls for the need for Ghanaians to clearly understand the full implications associated with the cultivation of genetically modified foods before embracing the technology," he said.
"If [we] Africans fail to get our act together, GM patent domination of our agriculture could be far worse than the combined effects of apartheid, colonialism and slavery. Remember the words of [U.S. Secretary of State
"We are waiting some way, somehow to become guinea pigs in the hands of some scientific experimentation by people elsewhere before we think, before we come together," said
He says research in the U.S., EU and other advanced countries has linked GMOs to sterility, cancer and birth defects.
Yeboah claims GMOs have wreaked havoc in countries like
"There are some fundamental things we are not getting right as a country," he said. "The state should support sustainable farming by providing the necessary resources, infrastructure and enough technical personnel.
"For example, the issue of the current farmer-agriculture extension officers' ratio, which is currently one Agricultural Extension Officers to about 1,300 farmers, should be addressed before thinking about starting GMO," he said.
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