Ghana’s parliament gives GMO crops a boost

Credit: AFS Ghana
Ghana’s parliament has approved regulations that open the door for the country to commercialize genetically modified (GMO) crops.

The regulations pave the way for the commercialization of insect-resistant Bt cowpea, which will allow farmers to dramatically reduce their use of pesticides and boost their yields. Researchers are also ready to move forward with NEWEST rice, which has been engineered to require less nitrogen fertilizer, tolerate drought conditions and grow in salty soils — and still give good yield.

“To improve crops, we have to modify the genomes. And we are in support of that,” said Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, Ghana’s Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, who introduced the enabling legislation this past March.

In Ghana, most laws passed by parliament must be backed by subsidiary legislation before they can be implemented. The biosafety regulations that parliament recently adopted operationalize the National Biosafety Act 2011 — the parent law that allows for the introduction of GMO foods into the country.

The newly approved legislation outlines how the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) established under the parent act will work to ensure safety of GMO foods. It lays out specific committees that will help the authority regulate GMO foods.

It also lays out the processes for applying to introduce GMOs into the country, how to obtain permits for import and export of GMOs, how monitoring and enforcement of GMOs should be done and how public education on GMOs should be conducted.

The regulations were approved on June 28, but the action was only announced late last week, when Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta presented the government’s 2020 budget statement to parliament.

The Finance Minister also announced to parliament that a new biotechnology development program will be rolled out next year. It will ensure the authority “continues to undertake public awareness and education campaigns on issues relating to GMOs. This will be targeted at policy makers, students, industry players and farmers in line with [United Nations Sustainable Development Goal] Target 12.a,” Ofori-Atta told legislators.

Related article:  Why grow GMOs? Because plants don't naturally evolve into food fit for humans

SDG 12 addresses the urgent need to change the way goods and resources are produced and consumed in order to achieve economic growth and sustainable development in a way that reduces the ecological footprint. It also talks about the efficient management of shared natural resources to ensure people meet their basic needs without harming the environment.

Ofori-Atta also disclosed to parliament that the NBA has made a lot of progress in training officials to handle GMOs safely and appropriately and has secured equipment for the nation’s GMO detection laboratory.

The Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology continues to insist that biotechnology will help Ghana improve its crops, despite the legal actions and demonstrations by anti-GMO groups demanding an end to the processes to introduce GMOs into the country.

Boateng expressed concern that a lot of Ghanaians do not seem to understand GM technology, leading to widespread objections. But he offered assurances that government has the public’s interest at heart and will not introduce technology that could harm the populace.

“I believe people don’t understand GMOs,” he said. “But we love our country. Our children will eat some [GMO foods]. So we as government will not bring in anything that will disturb our agriculture, our health, our economy, and our environment. We will not let that happen.”

This article originally ran at the Cornell Alliance for Science and has been republished here with permission. Follow the Alliance for Science on Twitter @ScienceAlly

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
can you boost your immune system to prevent coronavirus spread x

Video: How to boost your immune system to guard against COVID and other illnesses

Scientists have recently developed ways to measure your immune age. Fortunately, it turns out your immune age can go down ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend