A two-day training and field trip aimed at equipping journalists with the knowledge of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), ended in Tamale.
The event which brought together 30, who report on issues of agriculture and environment and related matters, was intended to create awareness on the existence and safety of GMOs, as well as the development of the pod borer resistant variety of cowpea in the country.
It was organised by the Alliance for Science in partnership with the Ghana Agricultural Rural Development Journalists Association, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Savannah Agricultural Research Institute(CSIR-SARI) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture(IITA).
Dr Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw, Senior Research Scientist, noted that the production of GMOs was expensive.
Hesaid that “anyone trying to develop GMOs in Ghana would have to get approval from regulatory agencies, including the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the Food and Drugs Authority(FDA), the Ghana Standards Authority(GSA) and Environmental Protection Agency(EPA).”
He said two types of GMO crops were being developed in Ghana – the Biotechnology(Bt) Cowpea and newestrice.
DrAmpadu-Ameyaw said the GMO Bt cowpea had been introduced to complement the work of non GMO, noting that it would tackle diseases or pest that the non GMO could not combat
At the GMO Cowpea trial field trip, Dr Jerry Nboyine, Principal Investigator and an Entomologist, at SARI,said that farmers had witnessed the trial and they had confidence in the crop.
According to him, for the normal variety farmers’ use for every acre farmers they were expected to harvest about 20 bags, but farmers hardly harvest up to 5 bags.
“So you can imagine from 20 to 5bags that means they are losing about 15 bags because of the insect, calledMaruka. Once we have the Bt cowpea out there that means farmers will be able to increase their yields by four folds, which means the crop will be available in sufficient quantities for everyone to buy and the high cost of beans will definitely come down,” he said.
Dr Nboyine indicated that the Bt cowpea would complement the Planting for Food and Jobs programme, which sought to support farmers to increase produce and earn more money.
He noted that Ghana’s annual demand for cowpea was estimated as 169,000 tons meanwhile Ghana produces 57,000 tonnes, adding that the deficit was catered for from imports from Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Niger.
He debunked claims that GMOs were‘chemical crops’ produced to kill human beings.
A farmer at the trial farm, Ali Mohammed,was excited about the GM Bt cowpea and indicated that farmers were patiently waiting for the approval of the crop so that they could plant it.
According to him, they normally sprayed chemicals about eight times on the farm to tackle pest and other related insects, but with the GM Bt cowpea a farmer would only need to spray twice, which was less expensive for them.
FROM BENEDICTA GYIMAAH FOLLEY, TAMALE