To enhance rapid creation of new crop species, modern methods of biotechnology needs to be adopted, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Ghana, has said.

Dr Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw, Coordinator of OFAB Ghana, noted that modern biotechnology had huge potentials to improve crop yield, ensure the production of nutritionally rich foods as well as produce crops that had natural resistance, through genetic engineering.

He said the perception had always been that the new technology was out there to compete with the previous technology, which was untrue, all that scientists were trying to do was to introduce new methods that would complement what already existed.

Dr Ampadu-Ameyaw made these remarks in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) at a workshop on Genetically Modified (GM) foods in Accra.

The workshop, which was held on the theme: “From Lab to Market: Accelerating Technological Advancement for Enhanced Economic Growth”, aims at informing the scientific community as to what has happened to the technology that years ago they decided to work on.

Dr Ampadu-Ameyaw, who is also a Senior Scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research -Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI), said the idea was not to bio-engineer all the crops, but to tackle it case by case depending on the seriousness of the challenge they had.

He said for instance if they could not eradicate cocoa swollen shoot disease by any means, then they would have to resort to the genetic modification, which was a precision technology to get the gene that was able to fight the disease.

The Coordinator said Ghanaian scientists had produced new crop species especially with bt cowpea and rice, as one has left the laboratory and the second one was ready to leave, however they were leaving to the market, hence the need to commercialize.
Dr Michael Abu Sakara Foster, a farmer, also noted that GMOs had been known in Ghana, however, due to how it was introduced; the social and safety issues were so high in society.

He recounted that scientists did not create more awareness but rather allowed those who did not have a firm understanding of issues, to lead the discussion.

He therefore, reiterated the need for building consensus particularly on how to use the technology and for what purpose is meant for.

Madam Nana Akua Yeboah, Principal Regulatory Officer, Agro Products and Biosafety Department, Food and Drugs Authority, said there were lots of arguments concerning the consumption of GM foods.

She said the concern of toxicity, allergenicity, adverse impact on nutritional composition, as well as unintended effects in relation to GM foods were legitimate.

She recounted that the only way to ascertain their safe use with respect to human and animal health was a scientific evaluation of safety endpoints.

She stated that the data and information on these safety endpoints, when considered in total, provide assurance that the food was unlikely to have an adverse effect on human health.

Madam Yeboah said currently all national competent bodies across the globe have developed their regulatory practice on consensus documents developed by the Codex Commission.

She noted that any GMO that failed to meet the safety endpoints per the Guidelines would not be given market authorisation.

Source: GNA