Mr Eric Amaning Okoree, Chief Executive Officer, National Biosafety Authority (NBA), has said that the practice of slash-and-burn was as unfavourable as climate change, and both are threats to the sustainability of agriculture.
He said when someone sets a parcel of land on fire, soil organisms and the insects that form the major parts of pollinators were burnt.
Mr Okoree said these soil organisms, which prepare the soil for it to be able to hold water for the plants to absorb, were thus eliminated.
He said, in this regard, the very basis of agriculture is being destroyed through such practices.
Mr Okoree said as a result of such practices the types of crops and food produced decades ago could not be produced these days; adding that ‘agriculture and lives are threatened because of the situation in which we find ourselves’.
Mr Okoree made this known in his remarks at the “Ask About Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Engagement” with the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), a forum organised by the Alliance for Science Ghana.
The forum sought to create a platform for farmers, scientists, journalists and students to have an encounter with officials of the NBA.
Mr Okoree said scientists have found that in certain cases, crop plants could not grow well because they do not have the necessary natural and capabilities to do so and modern biotechnology could impact that capability for the plant to grow.
‘Who will expect that rice can grow in a saline soil; a soil which has salt but modern biotechnology has taken genes from a plant that grows in a saline environment and put it in rice, and now rice can be grown in a saline area along the shore’, he said.
Mr Okoree said the Authority does not release GMOs in the country but serves as the regulator of modern biotechnology and as such grants permits for GMOs to be researched on.
Mr Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw, a Senior Scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research- Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI), said food security issues, low production, land degradation and climate change were factors that needed more attention so far as agriculture was concern.
He said there were technologies, however, the reality was that the technologies were not able to meet the challenges of today, therefore, there was a need for another technology; and one of them was biotechnology with its associated GMOs.
Mr Ampadu-Ameyaw, who doubles as the National Coordinator for Open Forum Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), urged Ghanaians to go for biotechnological products and GMOs; adding that ‘the farmer has the right to cultivate what he or she wants but we should not also stop others from making their own choice’.
Ms Slyvia Tawiah Tetteh, a member of Alliance for Science Ghana, said Ghana was working towards introducing Genetically Modified Foods into the country’s food chain.
She said work was ongoing on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cowpea, and nitrogen use efficient, water use efficient and salt tolerant (NEWEST) rice for release onto the market sometime soon.
She said, however, the debate over whether Ghana should accept GMO foods or otherwise has continued unabated, and a lot of concerns had been raised about the technology.
Ms Tetteh re-affirmed their confidence in Alliance for Science Ghana with regards to the assurances that scientists all over the world had repeatedly stated that GMOs were safe, and that it is a crucial tool that could help revolutionalise Ghana’s agricultural sector.
Alliance for Science Ghana is a network of farmers, scientists, communications persons, students and other well-meaning Ghanaians working to ensure improved food and environmental security in the country.
The Alliance works with agric sector stakeholders to enhance access to agricultural innovation as a means of ensuring food security, improving environmental sustainability, and raising the quality of life for farmers.