16.08.2005 General News

Ghana gets Bio-safety Framework

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Accra, July 16, GNA - Ms Christine Churcher, Minister of Environment and Science (MES), on Tuesday said all Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) would pass through vigorous inspections to ensure that they conformed to the country's regulations and standards.

Launching the National Bio-Safety Framework for Ghana in Accra, she said the vigorous inspection would alley fears that such products could be harmful to the health of the people and the environment. Ms Churcher said the thirst for ensuring sustainable management of biodiversity for socio-economic development was the reason for Ghana's accession to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in May 2003.

"By the accession, we affirm our position for the safe use, handling and transportation of GMOs that might find its way to Ghana," she said.

Ms Churcher, therefore, called on the development partners and Ghanaians to help to achieve a workable system for the management of modern biotechnology including contained use, transit, import and export of GMO products in Ghana.

The main thrust of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety states that "Parties shall ensure that the development, handling, transport, use, transfer and release of any living modified organisms are undertaken in a manner that prevents or reduces the risks to biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health."

The Minister who launched nine other accompanying documents in addition to the framework called for financial and technical support to build capacity of the designated agencies, including the regulatory agencies, the universities and research institutions. She said with Ghana being the first in Africa and the 10th in the world to accomplish the task of developing a National Bio-safety Framework under the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) had proved its ability to ensure sustained use of modern biotechnology products and processes.

Dr Nii Okai Hammond, Deputy Minister Food and Agriculture, said Ghana and its neighbours continued to exchange planting materials and it was, therefore, prudent for the country to put in place all the necessary cautions and mechanisms to formally standardise GMO usage. "Without the necessary precautions we could damage our environment," he said, adding that it was better to be educated on GMOs and take the risk than not to try it all.

Mr Edward Nsenkyire, Chief Director MES, said two years after acceding to the Cartegena Protocol on Bio-safety, Ghana had been able to develop her national framework on bio-safety. "This is an affirmation of her preparedness and commitment to ensure the safe use, handling and transfer of GMOs in Ghana," he said Mr Nsenkyire stressed that Ghana's position on the issue of GMOs was strictly based on the precautionary principle and that every effort would be made to ensure safety in the use of GMOs.

Mr Alex Owusu-Biney, National Bio-safety Project Coordinator, said Ghana was among 130 countries to develop their national Bio-safety Frameworks to help to meet their obligations with regards to the Protocol.

He said with Ghana being the first to complete the framework in Africa, she was being considered for additional support by UNEP and GEF for four years to help to implement its bio-safety framework and to build the needed capacity including the development of a national bio-safety clearing house for information exchange as required by the Protocol.

Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, Chairman National Biodiversity Committee, said with the national framework in place the wildlife and other organisms in Ghana would be adequately catered for and protected. 16 Aug 05

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