You are here: HomeNews2008 02 16Article 139331

General News of Saturday, 16 February 2008

Source: GNA

Biotechnology needs legislative environment

Accra, Feb.16, GNA - Professor Walter Alhassan, Programme Coordinator of the Programme for Biosafety Systems on Friday called for an urgent cost effective legislative environment to promote the safe acquisition of the technology in Africa to enhance agriculture.

He said there were biosafety regulatory frameworks bounded by international conventions like the Cartagena Protocol in many countries to ensure safe use of biotechnology products in agriculture but where these regulatory systems existed they appeared too harsh to work with.

Briefing the media on the current global status of commercial biotechnology for 2007 publication in Accra, Prof. Alhassan cautioned that if care was not taken the gene revolution, like the green revolution would pass Africa by and she would be left behind.

The annual publication is complied by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non governmental organization working to alleviate poverty in developing countries through sharing of knowledge and transfer of crop biotechnology applications with the aim of increasing crop productivity and income generation, for resource-poor farmers and to bring about a safer environment and more sustainable agricultural development.

Prof. Alhassan said in 2007 the number of countries planning biotech crops increased to 23 as compared to 12 developing countries and 11 in industrial countries with growth measured in trait hectares increasing from 117.7 million to 143.7 million in 2007.

He said biotech crops achieved a very important milestone in 2007 with the number of resource-poor farmers benefiting in developing countries exceeding 10 million for the first time.

"Of the global total of 12 million beneficiary biotech farmers in 2007, over 11 million were small and resource-poor farmers from developing countries like South Africa, Argentina, India and the Philippines."

He said much progress had been made in the first 12 years of commercialization of biotech crops "but the progress made is just the tip of the ice-berg compared with the potential progress in the second decade of commercialization from 2006 to 2015".

He noted that after 11 years of global cultivation and use, no scientifically proven harm from Genetically Modified crops was established except the perceived risks by people in the areas of environment from gene flow and non-target organisms and human health from food allergies which needed precaution.

The increasing use of biotech crops will have a positive effect on global warming due to reduced world emission from the decreased use of machines for land preparation and decreased water use from drought tolerant crops developed.

There will be enhanced nutrition from specialty crops developed like high carotene rice, plants with higher content of essential fatty acids with tendency to reduce cardiovascular diseases, cereals high in micro-nutrients. He called for the encouragement of public-private sector partnership for the application of modern biotechnology to agriculture to promote its use in agribusiness. Mr Charles Kobina Annan, Executive Secretary of the National Association of Farmers and Fishermen who chaired the function expressed concern about the absence of a legislation to work with biotechnology which farmers were ready to use. He noted that there were some farmers who possessed the seeds of biotech cotton from Burkina Faso and planted them on trials but had no knowledge, adding "all they know is that their plants are doing well than others". He pledged the partnership and collaboration of farmers to localize the technology and ensure its successful implementation.

Join our Newsletter