CCCFS seeks information on GMO cowpea assessment

The Centre for Climate Change and Food Security (CCCFS) is demanding from the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) a detailed information on the risk assessment conducted for the environmental release of Genetically Modified Cowpeas developed by Savannah Agriculture Research Institute(SARI).

It said that the information to be provided should include the methodology used to assess the environmental and consumption safety of the product and details of the findings of the assessment.

This was contained in a letter by the Director of Research, Mr Sulemana Issifu to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NBA, Eric Amaning Okoree yesterday.

The Board of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) has approved the environmental release and placing on the market of Ghana’s first genetically modified crop Bt Cowpea or beans which has an inbuilt resistance to pest attack.

This follows the evaluation of information submitted to the NBA by SARI of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which addressed the safety of the insect resistance Cowpea and determined that the genetically modified plant “does not present an altered environmental risk or a food or feed safety concern when compared to conventional cowpea varieties in Ghana.

The letter stated that the Centre for Climate Change and Food Security (CCCFS) was shocked to learn about the grant of permit by the NBA for the release of genetically modified cowpea (Bt Cowpea) developed by SARI.

“Our surprise is actuated by the clandestine refusal of the NBA to grant our Centre very pertinent information regarding the application for permit by SARI which we requested for.

“Pursuant to section 18 of the Biosafety Act, 2011 (Act 831) and gazette notice by the NBA, CCCFS submitted a position paper to the NBA. Amongst other things, we raised a preliminary objection to the application pending the supply of important information to enable the Centre take a conclusive stance on the issue. Further, we berated the NBA for shrouding the entire process in secrecy as, in our opinion, enough wasn’t being done to pull the public along this destiny-changing process”, it stated.

It said there was no denying the fact that GMs have the potentials to obliterate natural ecosystems, adulterate other biological organisms and gemplasms, hence the request to be sure the current product is safe for the environment.

“The opacity with which the NBA has handled this process lends credence to-and feeds into-the notion about the GM lobby and how they engage in underhand dealings. Is it the contention of the NBA that information on safety are confidential and thus not accessible to potential sufferers or beneficiaries of the GM cowpeas? CCCFS doubts this is the position of the NBA. As scientists, we insist on seeing evidence on the safety of all biological organisms before recommending them for public use”

“Elsewhere, the release of an organism of this nature would have generated considerable interest since there could be a danger, real or perceived if the right precautions are not taken. In our view, the NBA has taken advantage of the reticence of Ghanaians on these matters, and violated sacred principles of co-creation. This is why CCCFS is playing a gatekeeping role for Ghanaians,” he stated.

BY TIMES REPORTER

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