Deputy minister makes case for biotechnology

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Dr. Alhassan (seated fourth from left)in a group photograph with the participants

Dr. Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, has said Africa cannot afford to lag behind in adopting biotechnology in food production to enhance her agriculture.

“The continent is food insecure and must adopt appropriate technology to improve food production to reduce hunger and malnutrition on the continent,” he explained.

Dr Alhassan, who stated this in his keynote address at a sensitisation for farmers’ group and leaders on the safe management of modern biotechnology in Ghana, said the vision of Africa to end hunger and malnutrition by 2025, could not be achieved without employing biotechnology in food production.

The two-day programme, organised by the National Biosafety Authority, under the auspices of NEPAD Agency of Africa Biosafety Network of Expertise (NEPAD Agency ABNE), a sub-regional body, was to assist African countries to institute enabling legal regulatory framework for biotechnology, and the Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS).

It was attended by more than 50 participants from farmer organisations and civil society organisations across the country.

The participants will be taken through topics such as “What is modern biotechnology and how it is used in agriculture?”, “How is modern biotechnology regulated in Ghana and in the world?,” “Is it safe to cultivate genetic modified crops in Africa,” and “Burkina Faso and Sudan’s experience with Bt Cotton.”

According to Dr Alhassan, biotechnology involved modern and improved methods of agriculture and food production and was safe.

“Responsible governments exist to protect the interest of citizens, and the government will not adopt any technology that will have negative impact on the citizens,” he stated and commended the NEPAD Agency ABNE for organising the programme to educate farmers on biotechnology issues.

The Director of NEPAD Agency ABNE, Professor Diran Makinde, said the objective of the organisation was to support African countries to put in place, better regulatory frameworks for the adoption of biotechnology in food production, saying an enabling legal regulatory framework would build the confidence of the citizens.

He said the programme was to provide farmers and their leadership with practical, evidence-based information on the safe management of biotechnology.

Prof Makinde said the promotion of biotechnology was not to promote the interest of foreign seed companies, but meant to improve food production in Africa through the introduction of draught, pest and disease-resistant crops as a result of climate change.

A senior advisor of the PBS, Prof Water Alhassan, said the programme was designed to create awareness on biotechnology issues.

He said the country had not introduced any biotechnology products into the system, adding that the country was only engaged in confined field trials in the North, stressing “it is encouraging a Biosafety Law had been passed and the National Biosafety Authority established”.

The Chief Executive Officer of the NBA, Eric Okoree, in his presentation, briefed the participants on the NBA and the regulatory system that had been instituted to regulate biotechnology in the country

He said Ghana was well equipped to regulate the authority saying NBA had been set up and the Technical Advisory Committee and biosafety committees had been

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