Scientists and Regulators dialogue on the state of GMOs


As part of its efforts to help bring clarity on GM technology in Ghana and the status of work done on a GM product (PBR Cowpea) within CSIR Ghana and other challenges, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) held a workshop in Accra, Ghana, to which discussed Genetically Modified Crops, the case of Ghana.

The workshop came at a time when farmers fear that climate change will worsen existing inequalities within the global trade systems, and the seed sector will not be spared.

The objectives of this workshop, being a gathering of top Scientists and Regulators traditionally cover a wide spectrum of issues in the ongoing GM technology activities in Ghana and shed light on the significant progress made in the development of a GM product, specifically the Pod Borer Resistance (PBR) Cowpea, within the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Ghana.

The workshop brought together nearly 50 top Scientists and Regulators, coming from 10 different institutions across Ghana.

It addressed regional and international seed issues that have scientific and technological implications on seed production and trade including biotechnology, plant breeding innovation, Regulations, and updates on Genome editing.

The workshop is part of OFAB Ghana’s effort to promote and explain the benefits of Genetically Modified Crops.

Speaking at the workshop, the Director General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Professor Paul Bosu indicated that CSIR embarked on its journey with the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) on the 18th of August 2011, to bridge the gap of communication on agricultural biotechnology.

He said CSIR recognized the need to collaborate with the Africa Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and OFAB to bridge the gap between scientific expertise and public understanding.

“Our partnership has been a resounding success, leveraging the knowledge held by CSIR’s scientists to foster a deeper understanding of biotechnology among policymakers and the nation as a whole.

“We will continue to educate the public to help shape perception and why the need for this technology.

“If a farmer spends money on spraying about eight times per cycle and they can significantly reduce that and then get their yields as well as cut down cost by 80%, the farmer would be happy.

“Our farmers are highly expectant of the release of Genetically Modified Pod Borer Resistance (PBR) Cowpea in Northern Ghana.

“We aim to educate and create awareness for the public to understand the basics of GMOs and know that biotechnology is something we have lived with over the years.

They will come to appreciate it. Also, we’re optimistic that will prove that these processes are safe,” he said.

A plant breeder and entomologist at the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-SARI) and Principal Investigator for the Pod Borer Resistance (PBR) Cowpea, Dr. Jerry Nboyine says the newly developed genetically modified cowpea has the potential to alleviate poverty among farmers and ensure Ghana’s food security.

He mentioned that Ghana’s annual demand for cowpeas is estimated as 169,000 tons while we produce only 57,000 tons annually as a country; this is because the average yield on farmer’s fields is below 1.0 t/ha which insect pests are the main reason for the low yields.

“What we must understand is that deficit is catered for by imports from countries such as Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Niger,” he indicated.

Chief Executive Officer of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), Eric Okoree disclosed that plans are underway to outline guidelines for genome editing and stack genes in September this year.

He emphasised that his outfit is working assiduously to ensure that everything produced is safe to consume.

“In September, we will be coming out with guidelines in genome editing. Now genome editing is not a classical way where the gene is transferred from the donor to the recipient through the gene gun or the agro bacterium, it is the same organism and the gene is edited in the organism.

“So to practice that in Ghana, we have come out with guidelines on that. We have also come out with guidelines on stack genes which grants the opportunity for anyone who wants to add a gene on another” he added.

Senior Research Scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) – Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) and OFAB Ghana Coordinator, Dr. Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw used the opportunity to thank his colleagues for showing up in this all-important workshop to discuss the ongoing GM technology activities in Ghana and to shed light on the significant progress made in the development of a GM product, specifically the Pod Borer Resistance (PBR) Cowpea.

“GMO is not a chemical, it is nothing scary but a technology that is used to develop food crops based on the best species” he added.

Story by:
Nana Yaw Reuben

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