Some 12 local and international institutions from 2019 to date have obtained permission from Ghana’s Gene Bank to use the country’s genetic resources- soil, plants and animals to conduct research.
Educational institutions use genetic resources for research while industrial companies such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, make cosmetic, personal care, fragrance, food and beverage products from it.
The bank, which is under the Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute of the Council for Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR-PGRRI), near Bunso, Eastern Region, is focused on the conservation of the country’s genetics resources.
The Gene bank’s establishment is in line with laws of the UN Convention on Biodiversity that requires countries like Ghana to take legislative and administrative measures, to share in a fair and equitable way the results of research and development, and the benefits arising from the commercialisation and other utilistion of genetic resources.
Dr Daniel Kotey, the Director of CSIR-PGRRI, speaking at a workshop on the protocol in Accra, said two applications were pending while about 10 others were yet to complete the processes.
The day’s event organised by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), brought together researchers and scientists from various institutions to increase awareness of some of its protocols.
Dr Kotey called for support to enable CSIR-PGRRI create more awareness, develop standards on material transfer agreement, mutually agreed terms, and prior informed consent to enable the country get its fair or equitable share of benefits derived from the use of the country’s genetic resources by foreign institutions and individuals.
He said although Ghana had ratified the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the country was yet to enjoy the benefits fully.
“Prior to the establishment of the gene bank it is believed that people have profited hugely from genetic materials of Ghana without paying anything and this initiative is to help the country address it so we are hoping to reap the benefits soon,” he said.
The Director urged the government to quicken the legislation being developed and other activities to enable the country to generate another revenue stream for development.
Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, the Minister for MESTI, said providing the users with international access to genetic resources for use in research and development, including commercialisation, and sharing the benefits of such utilisation had the potential to be beneficial to social and economic development.
“At the same time, it offers both a concrete example for valuing biodiversity and its ecosystem services in practice and an economic tool to take proper account of this value. This again is a prerequisite for conservation and sustainable use,” he said.
Dr Afriyie said there was the need to create awareness and build the capacity of key stakeholders on the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol and to introduce the Focal Point and Competent National Authorities to ensure that the biological resources of the country did not get out for various uses without due recourse to laid down procedures.
Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, the Chairman of the National Biodiversity Steering Committee, said the country needed digital sequence information, like a chemical library, where all the DNA would be assembled for sale.
“If you just have a scan of all the genetic resources that this country has, you can just think about what kind of things actually are making Ghana so that we can take bold decisions; we can take all of these resources and reap the benefits due our country,” he said.
Mr Peter Dery, the Director of Environment at MESTI, said the government would take steps to catalogue all protocols the country had ratified so it could localise some of them to enable the country to derive maximum benefits from them.