Ghana has developed guidelines to regulate the export, shipment, import and release of invertebrate biological control agents and other beneficial organisms.
The guidelines, which cover organisms without backbones, were developed by the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) with the assistance of the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI).
It spells out the procedures and principles for acquisition or procurement, handling and use of these organisms for various prescribed purposes and the management of the risk involved in such an enterprise.
It also highlights the responsibilities of contracting parties to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) including the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) and other responsible authorities, importers and exporters.
At a two-day workshop to validate the document, Mr Ebenezer Aboagye, the Head of Crop Pest and Diseases Management Division at PPRSD, said biological control was the most desirable low-risk means to manage pests on food crops.
It is in this direction that the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has since 1992 adopted Integrated Pest Management as a National Plant Protection Policy of which biological control is a key component.
Currently, a field trial to test the efficiency of the parasitic wasp, Telenomus remus against fall armyworm is ongoing at the Soil and Irrigation Research Centre (SIREC) University of Ghana at Kpong and the PPRSD Head Office.
Mr Aboagye said the guidelines were necessary as greenhouses had begun to spring up across the country and the producers would opt for biological control of pests and the use of beneficial organisms for pollination.
Already, Agritop Limited imports predatory mites and predatory bugs to manage pests in greenhouses.
It also gets permission from PPRSD to import beneficial insects such as buff-tailed bumblebee or large earth bumblebee for greenhouse pollination.
Mr Aboagye said there was now the need to prohibit or restrict the movement of biological control agents as in some situations, imports of beneficial organisms might act as a carrier or pathway for plant pests.
“The danger in allowing people to import without any guidelines is that they may turn out to be a pest, which can cause much harm,” he said.
Dr Victor Attuquaye Clottey, the Regional Representative, CABI West Africa, said while the country has guidelines for the registration of bio-pesticides, there was none for invertebrate biological control agents.
“We have one for bio-pesticides but in that document, what is conspicuously missing are the guidelines to regulate the procurement, handling and use of these invertebrates. We find that as a big gap in our agricultural development processes, especially in the plant health area.
He said the country’s agriculture production is gradually moving towards the use of biological control agents because of the complaints about the harmful effects of the excessive use of chemicals.
“We are taking practical actions to move away from the excessive use of chemicals but we need to have alternative options so that if we are reducing chemicals we have something to replace them with” he said.
Dr Clottey said because some of these organisms would certainly be imported, there was the need to have regulations so that people who want to go into it as a commercial venture could do so and play by the rules.
“We want people to know what they are supposed to do if they are to import or export these things or even produce them within the country and release them at another place,” he said.
Besides, the country would not want the proliferation of these micro-organisms into the country unregulated as people can bring in things that are labelled as one thing but contains something else.
Work on the guidelines started in December 2019 after a workshop organized by CABI for relevant stakeholders in 2019 on biopesticides regulation in Ghana where the decision was made on its relevance to the country.
Dr Clottey said the guidelines were also good for the country to develop its own organisms and to sell to neighbouring countries or on the world market if the need arises.
On his part, Dr Lakpo Agboyi, the Invasive Species Manager at CABI said the guidelines were important because many countries in Africa, especially in West Africa, do not have any regulatory mechanisms for exporting, importing or releasing biological control agents.
“That is very dangerous for the countries because sometimes you could release an organism that would become a problem or a risk for the agriculture production process in the country. It is important to know the regulations on those invertebrate biological control agents we are talking about,” he said.
Dr Lakpo said the validation would allow organisations which want to import, export or release invertebrate biological control into the country to follow the guidelines and to get the authorisation from PPRSD before doing such work.
“The guidelines are very necessary even if it is for research purposes. This is because sometimes organisms could escape research facilities and cause some problems in the country and therefore, users must know how to prevent or properly manage such potential risks,” he said.
An Entomologist with the University of Ghana’s Soil and Irrigation Research Centre, Dr Ken Fening said the regulation will provide the needed impetus to mass rear some biological control agents already in Ghana or to import some to augment what is already being done. “In the end, we are all aiming at food safety,” he added.