Regional News of Sunday, 5 August 2012

Source: GNA

Biotechnology has no health and environmental hazards - Expert

Professor Jonathan Padi Tetteh, a biotechnology expert has debunked public perception that Genetic Modified foods pose health risks to humans.

He said GM foods posed no health risk since extensive test was made on them before they were released.

GM foods, he noted, had been consumed in many countries including USA, Canada, Brazil, India and China for over 16 years without any reports of adverse effects.

Prof Tetteh was speaking at the monthly session meeting of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) on the theme: “Impact of biotechnology on Food production” in Accra.

He said: “Most of the imported foods into the country are GM foods, yet we eat and have no adverse effects and we speak against GMOs as if is the work of Satan.

“God created man and impacted knowledge into man to discover and explore what He (God) created and that is what GMOs is all about. It is God’s creation and man only discovered it”, he said.

On the environmental hazard of using biotechnology, Prof Tetteh said a toxin known as Bt toxin had been produced by the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, which was toxic to insects of the Lepidoptera and Coleoptera families only, but not to man and other animals.

“This toxin is formulated into insecticide, and used safely by organic farmers to control insects on their crops. The biotechnologist introduced the Bt gene from the bacteria, into crops now referred to as Bt crops. Bt crops can produce their own Bt toxin to protect themselves”, he said.

Speaking about some new discoveries in nature due to biotechnology, he said, biotechnology had provided a technology for Artificial Insemination (AI) in the livestock sector to allow superior male parents to father thousands of offspring’s at a time.

Prof Tetteh said it was estimated that the number of AIs performed globally in 1998 included 100 million cattle, 40 million pigs, 3.3 million sheep and 0.5 million goats, which the number in Africa was less than one million.

He said due to the high demand of male tilapia because of its fast growing and taste; a genetically male tilapia could be turned into a female through oestrogen treatment and when mated with a normal male, would produce only male tilapia fingerlings.

He mentioned some advantages of growing bt crops as only target insects are killed, as against the use of conventional insecticides on the crop, no danger of insecticide poisoning of farmers and consumers, no chemical residue to contaminate the environment, no additional cost from insecticide application and higher yields because the entire plant is protected.

Prof Tetteh called on experts and the media to provide credible information on modern technology to the public to avoid misinterpretation.

He expressed the need for the country to embrace modern technology to solve the problem of food security in the country and Africa as a whole.

OFAB monthly meeting is aimed at bringing together stakeholders in biotechnology and facilitates interactions between scientists, farmers, journalists, civil societies, law makers.

The initiative serves as a platform to share knowledge and experience and explore new avenues for unleashing biotechnology.

OFAB Ghana Chapter, which is the sixth to be established in Africa, is a collaborative initiative between African Agricultural Technology Foundation based in Kenya and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

OFAB seeks to promote and sustain a well informed and interactive society capable of making informed decisions regarding research, development, regulation and commercialization of agricultural biotechnology products.**