GENET archive


9-Misc: Ghana stops importation of GM foods: A rejoinder

                                 PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Ghana Stops Importation of GM Foods: A Rejoinder
DATE:   20 Aug 2005

------------------- archive: -------------------

Ghana Stops Importation of GM Foods: A Rejoinder

Feature Article of Saturday, 20 August 2005
Dr. Clemente K. Abrokwaa
Assistant Professor of African Studies
Penn State University

On July 29, the Food and Agriculture Minister, Mr. Ernest Debrah
announced - categorically - that Ghana would reject, without hesitation,
the importation of any GM foods, crops and materials into the country,
despite the fact that the new technology might help solve some of the
country's food production and famine problems.

In reality, as stated by the Chronicle, "this statement implied that the
government had resolved to oppose anything to do with GM foods."

One important missing element from the article at the site
was that the Honorable Minister's reasons for such categorical rejection
were not included in the Chronicle's report, or perhaps the Minister's
decision was a unilateral one - for the government.

At the July 28 workshop on GMOs hosted by the Science and Technology
Policy Research Institute (STEPRI), of the CSIR, Professor Emmanuel Owusu
Bennoah, Director General of CSIR, while acknowledging the risks involved
in any science and technology strongly advocated for Ghana to take
advantage of the GM technology to improve its agriculture and food
production for food security in the country. He stated it best when he
warned that Ghana ran the risk of being left behind in this new era of
science and technology, if it failed to take part in it.

Similarly, the Minister of Environment and Science, Ms. Christine
Churcher equally acknowledged the controversy surrounding the GM
technology but she also pointed out that it had enormous potential to
address the country's food security problems. Finally, Dr. Joseph Gogo,
Director of STEPRI assured of several follow up training programs to
build capacity of stakeholders to enable the public to make informed
choices over the GM technology and GMOs.

Earlier, on July 27, addressing a two-day capacity building seminar at
Agona Swedru for members of the parliamentary select committee on
environment, Ms. Churcher once again, called attention to the rapidly
diminishing forest and other natural resources of the country. According
to her, Ghana has already lost over 75% of its forest cover in the last
few decades and that the country lost over 2 million cedis per annum
through environmental degradation - especially illegal logging and mining.

The Food and Agriculture Minister's announcement thus comes as a surprise
and great disappointment at a time when attention should be focused on
how to save and also restore what has been lost. Perhaps we need to
remind our honorable ministers that the loss of such natural resources
are irreplaceable and can only lead to desertification, which also means
that about 50 years from now Ghana could potentially face severe droughts
and most of its land mass could be reduced to desert.

This is a time when most African countries are fast and seriously engaged
in the GM technology research to assist in their quest for food security
for their countries - in the long term. Currently Kenya, Nigeria and
South Africa, also Egypt and others have taken the lead in Africa by
applying the GM technology research to fighting crop disease affecting
staple foods such as cassava, potatoes, corn, banana, rice, oil palm,
coconut and many others. In fact, Kenya has already begun trading in its
GMOs with other countries both within and outside the continent. The East
African countries have formed an organization called Association for
Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa
(ASARECA) in their determination to harnessing the new technology in food
production to meet the needs of their populations now and in the future.

At the recent ECOWAS Ministers meeting on Biotechnology in Bamako, Mali,
Professor Walter Alhassan, coordinator of the Program for Biosafety
Systems for West and Central Africa stressed that the introduction of
Biotechnology was a tool to complement traditional agriculture for food
security and poverty reduction and facilitate the production of new
varieties of plants and breeds of animals - and not to replace the
conventional way of farming.

Indeed he pointed out that only Nigeria had shown commitment by
promulgating a national policy and creating a Center of Excellence for
Biotechnology at Shresto, near Abuja. Nigeria has also established a
National Biotechnology Development Agency and Advanced Laboratory,
showing that country's strong commitment. But the Professor also warned
that the West African sub-region lagged behind other regions in the
advancement of biotechnology.

This is why Mr. Debrah's statement is disturbing. Does he want Ghana to
lag behind without making any attempts at all to research into the new
technology? What are his main concerns about the GM technology that
elicited such a statement from him? Perhaps the Minister should realize
that other African countries - despite the many unresolved issues
surrounding the GM technology - have rather chosen to embrace it and find
solutions to any problems that may come up as they go along in employing
it to solve their agricultural and other problems. Ghana should not hold
onto just the negatives being preached by the zealous activists who only
see just the one side of the issue and never bother to look at the other
side for any balanced viewpoints.

At the West African conference on GMOs, once again, Ms. Churcher
reiterated her call for capacity building to ensure the sub-region's use
of the new technology and warned that Africans "should swim with the tide
otherwise we will be left behind as did the Green Revolution."

This article is not about Ms. Churcher but it has become obvious that she
appears to be deeply committed to seeing Ghana - and Africa as a whole -
become involved in developing its science and technology capacity to
facilitate social and economic growth. Just last week she called for
research scientists to be rewarded for their inventions and research
innovations for national development, and it would help for such attitude
to be shared by our leaders, particularly in the area of agriculture and
food security. This is the age of science and technology and the western
societies, led by their able scientists and private companies and
investors, are rapidly harnessing the unlimited potential of
biotechnology to improve the quality of life and maintain their food
security programs for their people.

Perhaps Africans - including Ghanaians - need to pause to ask how and why
western societies have managed to feed their growing populations and
still have surplus to feed Africans who have land and unlimited labor
supplies. The answer is simply that they have been engaged in constant
research to seeking the optimum crop yield to feed the bulging world
populations including those of Africa. While African governments throw
banquets to toast the news that their countries have been awarded the
HIPC status and their politicians and others wallow in corruption and
spurious riches, other so-called Third World countries, including India
and China - are slowly but steadily becoming self-sufficient and self-
reliant thus reducing their dependency on western nations. It rather
appears that African leaders never want to let go this idea of dependency
since this is how they enrich themselves.

Ghana should not remove itself from the GM technology race or else it
would be too late to take part. Whatever made the Food and Agriculture
Minister to make that statement should be seriously reconsidered to avoid
taking the country back many years in terms of the use of science and
technology for modern day social and economic development.

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GM crops: the true story
SOURCE: Ghanaian Chronicle, by Carlyn Greenhalgh
DATE:   25 Aug 2005

------------------ archive: ------------------

GM crops: the true story

There is no doubt that Genetically Modified (GM) crops are surrounded by
a world of controversy. Whether or not the controversy is justified is
down to individual opinion.

As the scientific world bounds forward in the field of genetics, more and
more things are becoming possible. Animal cloning, stem cell growth and
crop modification are examples in which the field has been working, to
name but a few.

Crop modification has been of great interest to Ghana since agriculture
plays a large role in the nation's economy.

The question as to whether Ghana should enter into the GM crop market or
not, does not have a clear-cut answer.

The idea behind modifying the crops is to make them bigger, better and
more appealing to the customer and so increase sales and revenue.

Genetically modified crops have been made to be resistant to certain
pests and so the risk of having a crop fail is reduced. Some crops have
also been modified to require less water or be a certain shape, size and

The crops have been engineered so that their genes, the chemical
blueprint of the individual, are exactly as the scientists wish them to be.

Normally, the process of reproduction is much more random, and the genes
the offspring will inherit are a mixture of its parents' genes.

The process of natural selection is eliminated during genetic engineering
as the scientists act as the creators of the offspring.

It all sounds very appealing; to be able to produce the perfect crop
every time without fail, but this is only the "tip of the iceberg". What
lies below the water's surface is still unknown.

The critics argue that the long-term implications of using genetically
modified crops are not yet known. The ongoing studies have not been long
enough to see what the future effects will be.

It will take several more years to establish and concretize results from
these investigations.

Concerns range from those on a personal level with respect to human
health, to those on a global level with respect to the environment.

It is not certain how GM crops will affect the health of humans. Many
people refuse to consume GM crops, as they are unsure if they will cause
damage to their bodies. Concerns have arisen as to whether GM crops may
be carcinogenic (cancer causing).

Huge anti-GM crop campaigns have occurred in the Western World with
positive outcomes. Certain supermarket chains refuse to sell any such
foods and clear labeling of all foods containing any GM ingredients is

Even if the GM crops are used as animal fodder, they will enter the human
food chain and many people will refuse to eat animals fed with GM crops.

The environmental concerns stem from the unknown effect GM crops will
have on the natural food chain.

Preventing insects from eating the crops may have catastrophic effects on
the food chain. If the insects cannot eat then their numbers will
dwindle, as will birds' numbers, due to lack of insects. With fewer
birds, the distribution of seeds may be reduced, since this is one of the
things birds do through excretion. This will have a negative effect on
the vegetation.

The question Ghana should be asking itself is, will there be a market for
the super crop? It's all very well producing perfect goods but if no one
is prepared to buy them, then money would be lost.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinäckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig

P: +49-531-5168746
F: +49-531-5168747
M: +49-162-1054755
E: coordination(*)
W: <>

   GENET-news mailing list