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30.07.2005 General News

Ghana Stops Importation of GM Foods


Ghana has taken a strong stance against the importation and cultivation of Genetically Modified (GM) foods in Ghana.

The Food and Agriculture minister, Mr. Ernest Debrah said the country would reject, without hesitation, the importation of any Genetically Modified (GM) foods, crops and materials into the country although it might solve the famine problems being experienced, especially in the Northern part.

This implies that the government of Ghana has resolved to oppose anything to do with GM foods. Mr. Debrah said this last Friday in Accra.

GM technology in agriculture first appeared in the mid 1990s in the United States of America (USA), which is still the world's largest grower of GM crops.

A decade later, while member states of the European Union (EU) proceed cautiously on allowing commercial plantings of GM crops, increasing numbers of developing countries are joining the US in allowing the commercial planting of GM crops.

In 2004, 81 million hectares of land were under legal cultivation of GM crops in 17 countries. This is around 1.6 % of the total agriculture land in the world and the area is growing at a rate of 20 % every year. The year also saw 8 million farmers legally growing GM crops, up from 7 million in 2003.

The actual number of farms growing GM crops and the amount of land given over to GM crops are both likely to be much higher than the official figure, as illegal planting is widespread, particularly in Argentina, Brazil, India and Mexico as well as some portions of Africa.

The majority of the crops grown on commercial scale has been developed by private companies and either crop would be used in animal feed or GM cotton.

So far, private companies have shown little interest in developing GM crops unless they have the potential to be bought and sold on a mass scale. Because of this, only four varieties of GM crops, soyabean, maize, cotton, and canola occupy 99% of commercial plantings, and are worth more than $40 million each year. Majority of the crops are modified to resist viruses and insects as well as tolerate chemical weed-killers

By contrast, scientists and governments in developing countries are more interested in research and commercialization of GM food crops for human consumption and help ensure food security. Varieties of wheat, rice, sweet potatoes, millet, sorghum, cassava and many other fruits and vegetables are being developed in laboratories and test plots across the developing world. The traits being tried out are largely insect and virus resistant.

In developing countries, public institutions such as the Ghana Atomic Commission in Ghana, fund much of the researches into GM crops