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General News of Thursday, 18 August 2011

Source: GNA

Ghana Chapter of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology launched


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Accra, Aug. 18, GNA - Ms Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST), on Thursday pledged to ensure government sets aside one per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in next year's budget to support Science and Technology. The pledge she said was to support the implementation of the African Union's decision that African governments support science and research with one per cent of their GDP.

"This pledge demonstrates the high priority government places on science and technology in dealing with great challenges that we face as a country and indeed most societies around the world," she added. Ms Ayittey made the pledge when she launched the Ghana Chapter of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Accra. It is the fifth to be launched in Africa, and offers a platform that brings together stakeholders in biotechnology and facilitates interactions between scientists, journalists, civil societies, law makers and policy makers.

The other four chapters are in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Egypt. It was launched by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) based in Kenya in collaboration with the Ghana Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The launch was initiated upon realisation that public awareness was critical in creating a favourable environment for the acquisition and application of modern agricultural biotechnology, which has the potential to make a significant contribution to food security, poverty reduction and environmental conservation. The aim of the forum was to build a critical venue for greater and better knowledge sharing as well as awareness creation on understanding biotechnology.

In addition, it would provide opportunities for scientists and for policy makers to mainstream science and technology into Africa's development agenda and back it with adequate funds for research and development.

Ms Ayittey noted that biotechnology was a vital tool in agriculture that had over the decades been used extensively and was presently termed as the modern biotechnology that had several basic tools, which when applied could contribute immeasurably to food security.

"It is therefore necessary to embrace the initiative to create an open forum to dialogue all the many issues that follow modern biotechnology. It is known that many developed countries thrive on biotechnology products," she said.

Ms Ayittey said passage of the Biosafety Bill was a clear indication of government's support for the technology and science as a whole and noted that President John Evans Atta Mills would append his signature to the bill very soon for its full implementation. The Sector Minister explained that food security issues could not be addressed by single institute or a country and called for an integrated, multidisciplinary, holistic approach and the passage of Ghana's bio-safety bill was poised to influence agricultural systems in the world tremendously.

Dr Rose Emma Estua-Mensah, Deputy Director-General of CSIR called for the need to sensitise, educate and create in-depth awareness on the technology before its application.

Dr Jacob Mignouna, Acting Executive Director of AATF, who outlined reasons for the poor and low farm production said the technology would offer great opportunities for agriculture in Africa and address food security issues facing the continent and reduce poverty in the Sub Saharan Africa.

Dr Yaa Osei Difie, who represented the National Biosafety Committee pledged the Committee's support in ensuring that the application of biotechnology in Ghana was done under the laid down regulations and commended Parliament for the passage of the biosafety bill into law.

Professor Walter Alhassan, who represented the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), expressed FARA's commitment and willingness to ensure that application of biotechnology was done fruitfully without any hitch.

Professor Diran Makinde Director of African Biosciences Network of Expertise (ABNE), said though biotechnology was moving forward in Africa, there was lack of political will to move the agenda forward. He called for more training to build confidence in the people and ensure that there was more than enough information for the people.

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