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Opinions of Monday, 28 March 2011

Columnist: Amponsah, John

Walter Alhassan, Monsanto-Cargill and GM in Ghana

By John Amponsah

The promoter of Monsanto-Cargill’s genetically modified crops is back at it again. This time his title and role seem to be slightly different but the message and the mission remain the same. I guess he is still on their payroll. This article is a response to an earlier one published on Ghanaweb on the 26th of March, entitled "African countries urged to speed up the passage of biosafety legislations".

After reading the article "urging" African nations and Ghana in particular to embrace biosafety laws, I find myself disagreeing with the reason given by Professor Alhassan for Ghana to have biosafety laws.

Quoting from the article, "He noted that possible dangers in delayed bio-safety legislation in Ghana included possible smuggling of Bt cotton also known and GM cotton from Burkina Faso into Ghana by Ghanaian Farmers as well as uncontrolled mixing of GM and non GM cotton, which make the quality of Ghanaian cotton compromised."

Here is why I disagree: If we do not embrace genetically modified crops, we won't need these biosafety laws that Walter Alhassan is "urging" African countries to pass. Once the biosafety laws are passed, Ghanaians will not have to worry about GM corn being smuggled from Burkina Faso into Ghana because it will be legal to plant them here anyway. The biosafety laws will legitimize GM crops in Ghana, which is in my view the main reason for this push to have them. So in my view, Walter Alhassan's scare tactic approach is insidious as well as possibly misleading.

Can we have biosafety laws without then going on to then embrace GM? It seems to me not to be the case.

Instead, we need to have better control, enforcement and regulation of material potentially hazardous to the environment in Ghana. If I am correct, this is the job of the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology. Such material includes electronic toxic waste dumped in Ghana as well as toxic waste produced from oil business. In my view, we could comfortably place GM under the ‘toxic’ category.

There is more than enough evidence of the harmful effects of genetically modified crops obtained from countries who embraced this faulty technology under the guise of alleviating hunger. In reality, GM business is bent on making profit for others who do not care about hungry populations.

Ghana’s parliament should seriously consider the scientific evidence collected over a long period of time before making the mistake of introducing genetically modified plants into our ecosystem.

As I keep saying, Germany as a nation has recently made some environmentally friendly and intelligent decisions which I think are worthy of emulation by other countries. First they were among the European nations that rejected Monsanto-Cargill's genetically modified corn and Monsanto-Cargill as a company. Only recently Germany’s Chancellor, Dr Angela Merkel, placed her country on course to possibly reduce their dependence on nuclear energy by placing seven of their oldest nuclear reactors (out of seventeen) on review, opening up a possibly enormous future market for alternative energies.

The US on the other hand has done just the opposite, re-licensing the Vermont Yankee Nuclear plant for another 20 years (happened on March 21st, 2011). This nuclear power plant in Vermont is old and it has the same design as the Fukushima reactor in Japan which is currently causing that nation a lot of headaches due to the recent disaster. This is the same US that has inflicted Monsanto-Cargill on the world, especially on the lesser economically developed world like India and South Africa where their people are currently struggling with the decision to embrace GM crops. In my view, countries like the US are yet to take the lead in setting a better example for environmentally friendly business and government policy decisions.