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Opinions of Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Columnist: Jehu-Appiah, Ali-Masmadi

Debate Over GMOs: Does CSIR Lie For Dollars?

Food Sovereignty Ghana's attention has been drawn to some baseless allegations made against our movement by Dr. Margaret Atikpo, of the CSIR. This is contained in the news of Sunday, 13th October, 2013, read by Jefferson Sackey on Joy News At Six:

"The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is dismissing fears raised by advocacy movement, Food Sovereignty Ghana, that the consumption of genetically modified foods could be harmful to one's health. The movement yesterday, marched through the principal streets of Accra, to put pressure on the government to halt on-going processes to introduce GM foods into the country. These fears are that its consumption could cause kidney dysfunction, as well as cancerous tumours and others."

Responding to the claims of Food Sovereignty Ghana, Dr. Margaret Atikpo, of the CSIR, told Joy News:

"I know, and I have information from all over the place, there are people behind these people, who are being paid and giving them money to talk against GM foods without having concrete information about the technology and the modalities involved." - Joy News At Six, Sunday, 13th October, 2013.

We are not surprised that the CSIR is unable to respond to concerns about the imposition of GMOs on Ghanaians. These blatant lies only serve to expose the kind of people Ghanaians are being invited to trust.

It is time for every Ghanaian to be vigilant. After the Monsanto withdrawal from applications for GMOs in the EU because of non-acceptance on scientific grounds and rejection by civil society, the target is now Africa. This has been exacerbated by the recent decision of the India Supreme Court, as a result of a public interest lawsuit, recommending an indefinite "moratorium" on field testing of GMOs, based on major scientific evidence and review.

Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) has repeatedly called for a moratorium on the cultivation, importation, or sale of GM crops in Ghana until there is clear consent from Ghanaian consumers and farmers. We condemn the sinister manner in which GMOs are being introduced into the country.

We have also challenged the transparency of the work of The Ghana Biosafety Committee including conflicts of interest of its members, who currently double as biosafety regulators, and promoters of GMOs at the same time. Their smear campaign against FSG points to the desperation and moral bankruptcy of its perpetrators. We do not only owe it to ourselves, but also to all Ghanaians, to fully understand what is going on.

It is especially ironic that this charge is coming from the CSIR, an organisation which has itself become increasingly dependent on major funding from external donors, who call the tune. For this we, unlike Dr. Atikpo, can provide evidence. Those who have any doubts about the finances of CSIR should please take a look at this article: CSIR is broke | General News 2013-10-09: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=288422 [1]

They "partner with foreign research companies to do research for them and also carry research for private individuals and organizations. The committee members also expressed concern about the financial management at the CSIR because most of their accounts did not tally while finance workers at the centre also abused the financial regulations of the country."

This is the CSIR for you! If they can deliberately disseminate false statements to the public with no evidence like the way Dr. Atikpo is doing, what does this say about CSIR's integrity? What does it say about the trust the public can have in CSIR? What other regulations may the CSIR be breaking? Would that include our biosafety regulations?

We are emphatic that the only people who profit from FSG's activities and similar activities nationally and globally are the farmers and all people who want a healthy diet and environment for themselves and their families.

There is NO big money behind agro-ecological farming because it does not profit big corporations. It profits the farmers and the consumers. The ONLY big money in the GMO GE UPOV debate is money from agribusiness corporations and the governments that subsidize them in the G8. They are the only ones who stand to make a profit if these laws are passed and if these practices are allowed. When CSIR talks about big money and foreign interests, they should point at themselves and look in mirrors. They are talking about themselves, not FSG.

FSG is a non-profit organisation. We do not receive any external funding. All our activities are supported by contributions from our members and well-wishers. No one in Food Sovereignty Ghana is paid for any work done. We are greatly encouraged that barely six months after being established, FSG is making such an impressive impact on Dr. Atikpo, about our finances. We are also living testimony that it is possible to run an effective movement which is not necessarily dependent on external donors, however hard that this might be for others.

It is an unpardonable insult not only to the integrity and dignity of our members, many of whom, even though unemployed, are committed and unpaid volunteers working tirelessly to prevent GMOs in our food! It is also an insult to our sense of urgency, surrounding the attempts to impose GM foods on Ghanaians without any public awareness and participation.

We have therefore called on Dr. Margaret Atikpo to retract her statement, and offer unqualified apologies for her wild allegations before 10.00 GMT, Thursday, 31st October, 2013, when we meet next to review the situation and advise ourselves about the next course of action.

For Food Sovereignty Ghana, and,

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

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Ali-Masmadi Jehu-Appiah,

Chairperson, FSG