The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)/ Savannah Agriculture Research Institute (SARI) Scientists have trained over 170 small-scale cereal farmers in the Atebubu-Amanten Municipality to use a genetically-modified cowpea variety resistant to the Maruca vitrata insect.
Maruca resistant cowpea was produced using genetic modification and engineering technique and the Maruca is a pod-boring insect of cowpea that causes up to 80 per cent loses in a heavily infested cowpea farm.
The one-day training organised by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biodiversity (OFAB) introduced and equipped the farmers with knowledge on biotechnology at Amanten in the Bono East Region.
In a presentation, Dr. Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw, a Senior Research Scientist at the CSIR underscored the need for farmers to welcome the biotechnology technique to protect cowpea and other related crops for high and quality yields.
He noted that cowpea was an important and cheap source of dietary protein with an energy content almost equivalent to that of cereal crops.
Dr. Ampadu-Ameyaw who is also the National Coordinator for OFAB-Ghana Chapter, said nearly 200 million people in Africa consumed the crop, but despite its economic importance, yields on farmers’ fields were low and therefore encouraged farmers to embrace the genetically-modified and biodiversity of food crops.
He stated the increase of human population was anticipated to be about nine billion by 2050 and the use of chemicals on crops had raised serious concerns about the need to protect humans, the environment and its biodiversity.
Dr. Ampadu-Ameyaw said in response to that, the convention on biological diversity, an international treaty came out with three action points to help protect natural resources such as enhancement of conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources.
According to him, the biotechnology covered a variety of techniques and applications that allowed variations and enhancements in living organisms to provide desirable products for humanity, saying if managed properly, it would help countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 4, 12 and 13 and arguably 15 faster than expected.
Dr. Ampadu-Ameyaw consequently urged the farmers to consider the cultivation of Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMO) seeds as they were sure to increase crop yields, reduce cost for production and enhance nutrients composition and food qualities.
“The GMO seeds would again boost the resistance to pest and diseases, promote foods security and reduction of poverty and tolerance for minerals and other climate stressors,” he added.
Dr. Daniel Osei Ofosu, a Research Scientist at the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, earlier said the Maruca resistant cowpea was produced to improve high yield of the crop, which remained the most valuable nutritious food in the country.
He said the genetic engineering was a tool in the toolbox of a plant breeder that enables the breeder to cross the species barrier that limits conventional breeding, saying with that technology a specific trait moved into a crop of interest to solve an identified problem.
Dr. Ofosu indicated per the plant law that transfer was done in accordance with the Biosafety Act 2011 (Act 831) with due regard to human health and the environment.
Later in an interaction Mr. Alidu Wonyala and Madam Deborah Watin who are maize, cassava, beans, pepper and groundnut farmers commended the organization for the training, saying it had become an eye opener and hoped the biotechnology would become economic empowerment tool for them.
Mr. Stephen Aidoo, the Atebubu-Amanten Municipal Director of Agriculture in a welcoming address, pledged the Directorate of Agriculture was committed to support farmers with extension services to equip them to apply modern and best farming practices through well-trained agricultural extension agents and encouraged them to form groups to advocate for their interest with a collective and stronger voice.