14.10.2004 General News

Ghana lacks the capacity to undertake genetic engineering

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Accra, Oct. 14, GNA - A National seminar on Genetically Modified Organisms and Food Security in Ghana: The Prospects and Challenges," opened in Accra on Thursday with a disclosure that the country lacked the capacity to undertake genetic engineering.

Professor E. Owusu-Bennoah, Director-General of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) told the seminar that Ghana "lacks the physical facilities, the human capabilities and competence to produce genetically engineered organisms".

He called for public education and awareness creation as effective tools for creating the enabling environment for the successful application of genetic engineering in Ghana.

Prof Owusu-Bennoah said CSIR biotechnologists in collaboration with tertiary institutions in the country were currently undertaking specialisation in plant breeding, animal science, microbiology and virology.

He, therefore, called for the development of national biotechnology policy, which must be dynamic enough to respond to national needs as well as the technological demand at the global level.

Prof Owusu-Bennoah urged the Government to immediately put in motion the National Bio-safety Regulation.

He said the Government in 2000 constituted an 18-member National Bio-safety Committee and charged with the formulation of policies, regulations and procedures for bio-safety in Ghana as well as coordinating and monitoring biotechnology activities.

The CSIR Director-General said the passage of the law would pave the way for the development and application of Genetically Modified (GM) Technology in the country including the importation of GM crops or foods.

Prof Owusu-Bennoah said "the prospects of a food-secure world - a world in which each and every person is assured access at all times to food required to lead a healthy and productive live remains bleak". The seminar was organised by the Ghana Association of Agriculture Students of the University of Ghana was attended by the academia, students, CSIR fellows and a cross-section of the public.

Projections by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) depict gloomy picture for Sub-Saharan Africa, West Asai and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa's share of the world's food insecure population is projected to almost quadruple between 1969/71 and 2010 from 11 per cent to 39 per cent.

It is also estimated that by 2010 every third person in Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to be food insecure compared to every eighth person in South Asia and every twentieth person in East Asia.

Prof Owusu-Bennoah said the challenge for policy-makers, researchers and other stakeholders was "how best to achieve food security for all people".

He said there was also the need for modernization not only in terms of physical inputs but to also stress on the use of tolerant and high yielding improved planting materials.

The Director-General said genetic resources in food production, therefore, offered the solution to the food insecurity as it determined to a significant degree the level of achievable yields.

He said: "Over time farmers using indigenous knowledge have been able to enhance the local genetic resources through selection, saving seeds and replanting with nature facilitating the process through cross-pollination. 14 Oct. 04

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