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Ghana takes steps to deepen public understanding of modern plant breeding

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Ghanaian scientists and relevant stakeholders will tomorrow November 21, 2022 commence the development of a Genome Editing National Communication Strategy to deepen understanding and importance.

Genome Editing (GEd) can be described as a technique to improve food crops such as yam, plantain, beans and tomatoes to extend shelf life, enhance yield, quality and increase quantity.

With application of genome editing, Ghana can reduce postharvest losses, ensure food security, availability, live with impacts of climate crisis and achieve key development milestones.

Dr Francis Djankpa, Molecular and Cellular Biologist, and Department Head of Physiology School of Medical Sciences, University of Cape Coast, speaking to the Ghana News Agency ahead of the meeting said genome editing was the improvement of the conventional breeding usually done by agriculturists.

The goal of the GEd project is to foster a broader understanding among different stakeholder groups through communication and advocacy for enhanced uptake of the tool to optimize agriculture in Africa.

The communication and advocacy exercise target senior officials in government, Research and Development (R&D) institutions, media, and private sector towards co-creation for commercialization.

Dr Djankpa explained that the technique was not harmful to humans but rather destroyed pests and diseases that affected food crops and reduced yields.

He said GEd could be used in the health sector to cure medical conditions, including Sickle cell, to stop persons with such conditions from recurring crises.

The event would build on and complement the ongoing African Union Development Agency – New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD) efforts towards enhancing regulatory capacities on Biosafety through the African Biosafety network of Expertise (ABNE).

While ABNE’s focus is on regulation to ensure biosafety, the AUDA-NEPAD Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Innovation brings in a focus on innovation and R&D capacities towards the commercialisation of genome edited agricultural products to improve livelihoods.

This is from the recognition as contained In Agenda 2063 that technological advancements from biotechnological innovations in plant and animal breeding have the potential to advance continental agricultural sustainability goals and transform African societies,”.

Following the successful Genome Editing sensitization exercise that included engagement with high level officials towards the buy-in of the tool in the following six countries: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zambia and Eswatini, a writing workshop will be held as the next step to draft and develop responsive National Communication Strategies and Action Plans for validation by stakeholders.

Each national communication strategy will be based on the outcomes of the appraisal exercise conducted during the in-country consultations which sought to seek the buy-in process of national stakeholders.

The specific issues identified in each country will form the basis upon which the communication strategy and related action plan will be designed to guide a full-fledged sensitisation and advocacy exercise on genome editing and its potential to contribute to the optimisation of agriculture in Africa.

As part of the project, the development of a genome editing communication strategy and action plan will enhance public, government, private sector and media confidence in agricultural research and biotechnology. This is envisaged to help solidify the basis upon which the Government and other actors will effectively champion the upscaling of locally adapted genome editing and related products for commercialisation.

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