GENET archive


9-Misc: Ghana's Minister for Environment and Science calls "to embrace the whole idea of biotechnology"

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  ECOWAS biotechnology Conference in Bamako
SOURCE: Ghana News Agency, by Linda Asante Agyei
DATE:   25 Jun 2005

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ECOWAS biotechnology Conference in Bamako

Bamako, June 25, GNA - Ghana's Minister for Environment and Science, Ms
Christine Churcher, today called on governments in the sub-region to see
the building of functional infrastructure that will support the safe
development and use of modern biotechnology as an opportunity to exploit
biodiversity for sustainable development. She said there was the need for
governments to invest sufficient funds into building human and material
capacity for effective implementation of the frameworks, adding that,
that was the only way Africans could manage modern biotechnology for a
healthy life, while accelerating the socio-economic development of the

Ms Churcher, who made the call at the end of a four-day ECOWAS conference
on biotechnology in Bamako, Mali, said the time had come for the sub-
region to embrace the whole idea of biotechnology to promote sustainable
agricultural production to reduce hunger and poverty, which had almost
collapsed the continent.

The conference, which was under the theme "Strategies and Actions for
Sustainable Agricultural Production, Safety for Humans and Environment",
brought together agricultural scientists, farmers, producers and
researchers from the sub-region, Asia and other parts of the world.

Ms Churcher said though we were not that familiar with modern
biotechnology, especially with respect to Genetically Modified Organisms
(GMOs) and its products, which is virtually new, "we are naturally
concern about the its impact on human safety and the environment. The
acceptance of modern biotechnology and its potential role in enhancing
food security in Africa, will be determined by weighing the perceived
risks against potential benefits", she added. She noted that, there were
genuine concerns raised regarding the potential negative effect of
Genetically Modified (GM) crops on the environment that could not be
addressed in a scientific and transparent manner unless "we build the
human and material capacity to do so. We as African countries should swim
with the tide otherwise, we will be left behind as did the green revolution".

Ms Churcher called for the need to review and harmonise the bio-safety
regulatory framework and strengthen collaboration between member states
and the international community to ensure effective implementation of the
bio-safety review process. "I urge all member states to put in place
implement able bio-safety structures to facilitate the control of
movement of GMOs on our continent. Consistent and scientifically sound
bio-safety regulatory frameworks at the regional level will also pave the
way for us to initiate joint activities to deploy modern biotechnology to
solve food security and related development problems in the sub-region".

She explained that Ghana's bio-safety framework have been developed,
waiting to go through the process for approval from parliament and was
working towards educating policymakers and the general public on the
modern biotechnology and GMOs on their efficient role in agricultural
productivity in the areas of socio-economic development.

Chief Bamidele F. Dada, Nigerian Minister of state in charge of
Agriculture and Rural Development in his presentation, said Africa has
been considered to be slow in technology adoption, hence it continued to
lag behind in reaping the benefits, as well as the food production
lagging behind population growth. "This perception is often associated
with bureaucracy or rigid conditions and should on the other hand be
appreciated with respect to biotechnology", he added.

Chief Dada noted that it was through effective collaboration that the
sub-region could achieve the quantum leap Africa needed to catch up with
the other worlds to gain the prominence in the area of agricultural
research and development. He encouraged member countries to hold periodic
meetings to address the issue of biotechnology due to its importance and
the need to ensure that the region come to the forefront in harnessing
the best technology could offer for the betterment of the people. At the
end of the meeting, Ghana was opted to host the next meeting in Accra
come June, next year.

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

TITLE:  Expert urges Ghana to harness biotechnology
SOURCE: Ghana News Agency
DATE:   29 Jun 2005

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Expert urges Ghana to harness biotechnology

Accra, June 29, GNA - Ghana would fail to safeguard the health of the
population, the environment and to generate wealth if biotechnology were
not harnessed, Professor Eric Quaye, a bio-safety expert, said in Accra
on Wednesday.

The country would also upgrade health care systems, improve food
security, quality nutrition and raise the quality of life if
biotechnology were harnessed.

Speaking at the launch of Ghana's Programme for Bio-safety Systems (PBS),
he said biotechnology was being driven to a large extent by market forces
in the developed world.

"It is imperative that Ghana, like other developing countries, builds on
and strengthens existing initiatives to increase its involvement in the
global biotechnology market."

Prof Quaye said biotechnology had its advantages and disadvantages, as
was the case with any technology. The contentious debate surrounding it
was how people had equated biotechnology with genetically modified (GM)
crops and foods.

This, he said, had led to the intense controversy about the perceived
risks to human beings and the environment "though scientific evidence of
the associated risks continues to be debatable".

PBS is a three-year USAID supported project as part of their
collaborative agricultural biotechnology initiative. It is to empower
partner countries for science-based bio-safety decision making while
strengthening capacity to implement it through an innovative system. Bio-
safety is also a term used to describe efforts to reduce and eliminate
the potential risks resulting from modern biotechnology and its products.

Prof Quaye said while developed countries established domestic bio-safety
regulatory regimes, many developing ones, including Ghana, were now
establishing their own national regimes and accompanying guidelines to
address all the perceived risks associated with the use of GM products.

He said that for Ghana to reap the benefits of biotechnology, she needed
a visionary leadership, strong political commitment, an adequate policy
and legal and regulatory framework.

Prof Quaye reiterated that biotechnology offered a significant
opportunity to improve health care, meet food security goals, produce
high value-added products from rich biodiversity and develop sustainable
methods for afforestation and reforestation.

He said the country needed to urgently develop appropriate policies,
strategies and set priorities and avoid increasing technological
dependence by promoting and supporting innovation. Dr Gheysika Agambila,
Deputy Minister of Environment and Science, said modern biotechnology was
a powerful tool that offered several opportunities to exploit biological
diversity for socio-economic development.

He said there were a number of fascinating biotechnological products and
services that were in commercial applications in the field of medicine,
agriculture, health, industry and environmental sanitation. Dr Agambila
said since biotechnology exploited the capabilities of living organisms
and was, therefore, entirely dependent on existing biodiversity, Ghana
considered it prudent to accede to the convention on biological diversity
and ratified the associated protocol on biological diversity.

He explained that the UN Environment Programme's Global Environment
Facility had given Ghana a grant to support the development of a National
Bio-safety Framework.

Dr Agambila said the Government was committed to providing the enabling
environment for proven technologies to enhance the productivity of the
agriculture sector.

Professor Walter Alhassan, PBS Coordinator of West and Central Africa,
said the objective of the PBS Project was to promote the judicious use of
modern agricultural biotechnology in Ghana in order to increase
agricultural productivity, leading to marketing opportunities and higher
rural incomes.

He explained that the bio-safety legislation was before the Ministry for
study and it would forward it to Cabinet for approval. He said Ghana was
poised to develop its own-grown biotechnology products including those
involving transformation to solve the country's problems in agriculture
for food security and wealth generation in a safe environment.

Mr Clement Eledi, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, said traditional
breeding techniques had not yielded fast and effective solutions.
However, with advances in science, technology and new traits into plants
using genetic engineering, there had been improvement in agricultural yields.

He called for the effective execution of the PBS project to provide
Ghanaians with the requisite skills to bring the positive impact of
agricultural biotechnology to the people.

Mr George Sarpong, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the
University of Ghana, Legon, giving the overview of the national bio-
safety framework, said it would address issues including regulatory
regime, systems to handle notification, request for permits including
risk assessment, monitoring and enforcement, systems for public
participation, offences and penalties, civil liability and redress and


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