Business News of Saturday, 28 December 2013

Source: Daily Graphic

Suspend confined testing of GM foods

Food Sovereignty Ghana, a non-governmental organisation, has called on the government to suspend the confined testing of genetically modified (GM) foods in the country until the necessary bodies to oversee their introduction are set up.

It said the confined testing currently going on in the three regions in the north was an affront to the Biosafety Act which mandated the setting up of a biosafety authority, a governing body, a technical committee and inspectors to oversee the risk assessment and impact of GM foods in the country before the confined test trial.

Confined field trial

Ghana has started a confined field testing of GM biotechnology cotton in the three regions in the north.

However, Ghana is yet to set up the biosafety authority, the governing body, the technical advisory committee, regulatory agencies and inspectors, according to the organisation.

The Biosafety Act, 2011 (Act 831), Section 11 (1), under the heading, “Application for contained or confined use,” states: “A person shall not conduct a contained or confined use activity involving genetically modified organisms or their development without the written approval of the biosafety authority”.

Section 12 (1) continues: “A person shall not introduce into the environment a genetically modified organism without the prior written approval of the authority.”

Position of Food Sovereignty Ghana

In an interview with the Daily Graphic, a leading member of the Food Sovereignty Ghana, Mr Yaw Opoku, stressed that the organisation was not against the application of biotechnology in agriculture, but was against genetically modified biotechnology.

“Food Sovereignty Ghana fully supports the application of biotechnology in agriculture; it is not something new. But we are strongly opposed to GM biotechnology, where a gene of a different species, like pest or an animal, is transferred into another species which is a plant,” he stressed.

He said Food Sovereignty Ghana was opposed to GM biotechnology because biotechnology had been applied in the country with resounding success by the CSIR and other sub-regional research centres, stressing that biotechnology in agriculture was, therefore, not new.

Mr Opoku stressed that scientists and politicians in the country were not being fair to Ghanaians as far as educating them to understand the difference between biotechnology and genetically modified biotechnology was concerned.

“Biotechnology is the application of science and technology to produce crops that are relevant to us. But when it comes to GM biotechnology, we are talking about a gene from an insect being transferred into a plant or another species through the application of science and technology in the laboratory, but the scientists and the politicians make it look as if all biotechnologies are the same,” he explained.

Seed Breeders’ Bill

Touching on the Seed Breeders’ Bill, Mr Opoku stressed that the bill, if passed, would shift focus from the GM biotechnology to complement it with patenting the seeds that would come from foreign agribusinesses.

He accused Ghanaian scientists pushing for the bill to be passed and described them “as scientists who have been sponsored by those agribusinesses to use their GM crops in Ghana. We don’t expect those scientists to come and tell you anything less than the fact that it is good.”

He alleged that correspondence with some scientists at the CSIR revealed that “they have been asked by Acadia, for example, to do those tests,” and threatened that even though his organisation would not reveal the names of those scientists, if it became necessary, “we can publish those letters for the public to know that some of these scientists are doing the work of those agribusinesses in order to push these GM foods into the Ghanaian environment.”