It’s about time Governments around the world makes a deliberate efforts to encourage scientific invasion into agriculture via policy measures specifically designed to encourage research and development and the adoption of new technologies.
Without innovative advances such as biotechnology in agriculture, global efforts at ending hunger would still remain a hard Knut to crack. Because, biotechnology is now taking humanity beyond the depths of the understanding of chemical and physical possibilities.
Biotechnology simply means the phenomenon in which scientists change the genes of plants and animals by introducing into them desired genes from other related species into what is known as genetically modified organisms, GMOs or GM foods.
Biotechnology now has the potential to increase agricultural productivity, enhance food security, develop a better health care delivery system, boost an efficient industrial development process for transforming raw materials and detoxifying hazardous wastes, reduce mortality rates, move agriculture away from a dependence on chemical inputs and help to reduce environmental hazards.
There are tremendous challenges as we strive to present such complex information to the outside world. Before we can tell a science story, we need to grasp the science behind it, keeping up with fast-paced science and identifying reliable sources quickly.
The creative challenges are also immense, how to unfold a multilayered story through our available mediums as journalists. Realizing that, there is more than one understanding of truth and evidence, for instance, perspectives based on science, law, politics, economics and faith. This is why Journalists are to develop keen interest in Science and Technology reporting. Because, science issues are especially important to cover.
This would not only clarify the issues that borders on the subject, but will also go a long way to clear the disillusionment between scientists and journalists, in order to create the necessary awareness for the public to buy into the idea of the new technologies and its use.
The Project Administrator for Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalist Association (GARDJA), Reuben Quainoo, intimated that, he believes in new innovations that will help local farmers to increase their crop yields.
GARDJA according to him was established with the sole aim to mobilize and organize more training and capacity building for its members and Media Organizations that are interested in agricultural, environmental and rural development to professionally inform the various publics to improve public opinion towards favourable policies, programmes and practices for agricultural and rural development efforts in the country.
Mr. Quainoo made these assertions in a sideline interview after the official launch of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Ghana Chapter’s 2018 Media Awards dubbed, “Exemplary Journalism, Credible Science Reporting and better Public Understanding of Science Technology and Innovation” in Accra.
According to him, OFAB has really created a formidable platform for dialogue on the transformation of agriculture through quality information dissemination on agricultural biotechnology on the African continent.
He however, urged Journalists to always avail themselves for such awards and other important training programmes that will help them to get a broader understanding of technologies gearing towards Agriculture.
Adding that, Journalists understand their research better and so they have the ability to build on the core competence to communicate their works to the lay people, through accurate reportage.
Dr. Richard Ampadu Ameyaw, a Senior Scientist at the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) and OFAB Ghana Coordinator, said political reporting has overshadowed science reporting in our part of the country.
According to him, science led development could only be realized when more people, especially journalists with in-depth knowledge take up the challenge to report more on science related issues.
Mr. Ampadu explained that, the OFAB Media Awards was set up with the focus to encourage journalists to get deeper understanding and report more on science and biotechnology, in order to educate the public well.
This award he said is also aims at recognizing exemplary journalism that stimulates best practices in the adoption of agricultural technologies, particularly agricultural biotechnology.
In his answer to the question as to whether GMOs poses any threat to human health, he stressed that there is nothing dangerous about any product from GMOs.
He said, every crop you find today is modified. Because over the years, plant species and plant products have been modified in various forms, therefore there is absolutely nothing like natural crops.
Adding that, all that scientists are trying to do is to go directly into the gene map to change the order of the gene, so there is nothing dangerous about GM foods.
He said, GMOs go through very rigorous tests and processes over many years before they are released onto the market, which does not happen with crops produced using conventional technologies.
However, he said there is no evidence GMOs have been responsible for diseases anywhere, and that, this has been done for many years and there is no evidence to back that claim.
Prof. Walter Sandow Alhassan, former Director-General at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR, Ghana and OFAB Ghana Chapter Programming Committee member, also indicated that, Ghana’s agriculture has good moments in relation to the seed sector in recognising its importance for a vibrant agricultural sector.
However, he intimated most farmers in the country are currently into the traditional farmer-saved seeds, and it is estimated that, only 5% of these farmers uses certified seeds where less than 20% of the seeds are certified.
“The National Seed Plan is encouraging a private sector-led seed industry that will benefit from a Public-Private-Partnership(PPP). If the challenges of the seed value chain are addressed and the Planting for Food and Jobs creates the expected demand pull for quality seed, we can see a vibrant seed industry that will benefit further from an accelerated pace of plant variety” he emphasized.
Prof. Alhassan, therefore challenged the media to up their role in creating the necessary awareness for farmers adopt the new technologies in the system. a
Mr. Roland Affail Monney, President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), lauded OFAB and its Organizers for such award scheme which will help deepen professionalism of journalists in the country and beyond.
Calling on the Organizers for more of such award schemes and the expansion of packages to innovate the winners, he charged the media to submit stories for entry and as well as delve more into researching the science and technology areas.
If we are able to produce professional journalists in Ghana and Africa as a whole, we will be able to curb the disillusionment between scientists and journalists that bothers on biotechnology, in order to create the necessary awareness for the public to buy into the idea of the new technologies and its use on the African continent.