Feature Article of Wednesday, 31 August 2005
Columnist: Kusi, Isaac
There have been a few articles written on this site about genetically modified foods. The minister of Agriculture has been flip-flopping on this issue. First, I was full of praises when I heard about the ban on GM foods and a few days later he comes round to support GM foods.
Ghana gained independence in 1957 and lost it as we have become perfectly neo-colonized. This time the colonial masters are not coming to stay in the castle to direct affairs as they did so many years ago. They pass orders through our elected and appointed officials who ram it down our throats. In other cases they would pay respected people in the society to speak on their behalf. If a company like Monsanto sets up offices in Africa and promotes GM foods it?s a new form of colonization with profits as the ulterior goal. We are told to abandon our organic products in favor of GM foods. When we get used to it then we?ll spend our hard earned foreign exchange to import these seeds. Even if we pay in local currency, that money will be transferred abroad in the form of profits. And that contributes to capital flight. We have already passed laws as incentives to investors to transfer 100% of their profits. So what do we gain? There are jobs created but the pay is just enough for the workers to go to work. As of now a visit to Monsanto?s website shows they have strategically established offices in Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. They may already be in Ghana under the guise of an NGO and trying to influence our decision makers including our scientists. In an earlier article on Aug. 20 by Prof Abrokwah, he mentions some of these countries as having embraced this technology.
There is the argument about the increased yield per acre of GM crops but if we can improve on our farming methods, including mechanized farming in the northern part of Ghana, irrigation, good soil preservation and crop rotation, we?ll be able to grow enough organic food for local consumption and export without fertilizer. We need more silos to store grains. We?ve had the Workers Brigade, State Farms, Food Production division of the Ministry of Agriculture and there was no want of food. How come we produce 700 million tons of cocoa for export and can?t plant corn to feed ourselves? We have abandoned farming for the city. There is available land in the country for farming. And I can assure you, the best part of my life was spent on the plantations with my father who worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, Cocoa Division, and later with the State Farms Corporation. I tasted rural life and I know it?s the best life.
There are a lot of factors that have also affected our food production. We encouraged timber export that led to deforestation, which has in turn affected our weather pattern. The present government should be credited for investing heavily in tree planting whose effect will be felt in about a hundred years from now, provided we don?t cut them down prematurely. Although there are efforts to promote family planning, there should be much education on abstention. In the sixties when TV was introduced, we saw educational programs and we?ll sit in front of the TV in the daytime learning mathematics, but these days its mostly gyrating hips and foreign soap operas leading to more sex and irresponsible births and exponential growth of the population leading to more mouths to feed. We need to clean the airwaves by introducing decent movies and music. This will lead to a check on population growth. In 1980, the population was about 10 million and twenty-five years later it is about 22 million.
In the US if you go to the supermarket, organically grown food cost more than the GM foods. Organically grown foods are mostly sold in affluent white neighborhoods. In the beginning was the word and so should it be. God created a seed for each fruit on earth. So tell me why I should go to the supermarket to buy seedless grapes, or tomatoes that can stay in my refrigerator for three weeks without getting rotten. Anytime the farmer wants to grow the GM corn, soybean, or cotton, he has to go to a company that owns the seed to buy them. The company, which created it, owns rights to it. Any other company that tries to copy the technology has breached their creation and would be sued. If the wind blows and carries pollen from a GM farm to yours and there is cross-pollination without your knowledge or your fault, the owner of the crop will legally come after you. Can you imagine if a seed is created to grow yams or plantains? Even scientists here do not know the full impact of GM foods on humans and their environment. There is fear of creation of super weed that will be resistant to herbicides and super insects that will be resistant to insecticides. Some of the GM seeds have insecticides inserted in them; some of them have identification tags inserted that will enable owners to identify their crops. Is this what we want to eat?
The American government has established ASNAPP at Rutgers University in NJ to start analyzing plants from Ghana and Africa. This shows an interest in our products. If they were genetically modified, nobody in the western world would touch it. Organic farming is the way to go. The government has imported hundreds of tractors so we have to put them to good use by cultivating the land. Organic market is growing at a fast rate and will make agricultural products from Ghana preferred worldwide. And quoting Dr. Aggrey, ?Only the best is good enough for Africa?