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Regional News of Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Source: GNA

‘Let's pool knowledge together on Biotechnology’

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The Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovations, Mahama Ayariga has called on the proponents and sceptics of biotechnology to pool their knowledge together to achieve the collective goal of food security and food sovereignty.

“If our common goal is to grow African agriculture then fora such as we are currently at should be our convergence point to erase our fears by the experts”.

The Minister was addressing a workshop for farmers and others stakeholders, organised by the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) in collaboration with the sector Ministry, Programme for Biosafety Systems and Africa Biosafety Network of Expertise of NEPAD.

He explained that the understanding should rather bridge the gap that was constantly being filled by vociferous anti-science social lobby.

The Science Minister noted that biotechnology just like nuclear science, was a regulated scientific tool, which explained why African governments had been proactive in passing Biosafety laws and regulations.

He said: “Biotechnology is safe in its application and any ethical issues are well addressed in provisions of most Biosafety laws and regulations. Responsible governments exist to protect citizens and public investment in science will not be forthcoming, if such resources were to be used purely for curious research to the neglect of responding to the felt needs of farmers and consumers”.

Mr Ayariga said all scientific research endeavours had been thought about mainly to respond to human needs and never for purposes of curiosity.

“Resorting to the law courts may be good to seek understanding of practice outside the existing regulations, but not to restrain scientific practice, such as was the case recently. Science cannot be stopped by litigation. Scientists may be affected by court verdicts but science as a universal phenomenon is unstoppable”, he added.

Mr Ayariga said the Ministry was determined within the challenge of low resources to enforce the Plants and Fertilizer Act (Act 803) and accompanying Seed Regulations to the letter.

The idea, he explained, was not to target any particular agribusiness entity. It is to provide a level playing field for the development of the Seed industry and urged parliament to pass the Plant Breeders Bill into an Act as quickly as possible to further empower Regulatory agencies and institutions set up to enforce the law.

Dr Yakubu Alhassan, Member of Parliament for Mion Constituency and a Plant Breeder, spoke about the benefits of the technology citing Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, South Africa, Sudan, and Burkina Faso as some of the countries that had adopted the technology.

He entreated farmers to be well abreast with information on the safe application of biotechnology to arm them with basic practical knowledge and understanding of the subject.

Mr Eric Okore, Chief Executive of NBA, debunked the rumours that Ghana was commercializing genetically modified crops and that what has been done was granting permission for confined field trials.

“We are still at research stage and not commercial. We must develop confidence in our scientific community. They are as patriotic as the most vociferous social commentators. Our scientists are in their laboratories simply to allay our fears in the application and consumption of products of biotechnology and indeed the totality of science,” he added.

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