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13.01.2006 General News

Anti-GM foods workshop stirs controversy

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Accra, Jan. 13, GNA - Discussions at a workshop in Accra on the implications if Ghana should accept genetically modified (GM) crops turned into a hot debate from participants and resource persons, with bitter criticisms against MOSANTO, the top GM crop leader. Anti-Genetically Modified Crops Campaigner from Saskatchewan, Canada, Percy Schmeiser made a strong case against GM crops, citing ill health effects, particularly the lowering of the functioning of the immune system and increased rate of breast and prostate cancer as a result of the increased use of chemicals to cultivate the crops. Appearing passionate and emotional, Mr Schmeiser drew on the experience and the impacts of growing of GM crops in Canada, and said GM crops also brought increased health costs to governments.

He heaped criticisms on MOSANTO, alleging that it used farmers as propaganda pawns; and the legal system to impose the technology on poor farmers, adding that GM crops were not cheaper, not better in quality and did not present any benefits to consumers. It also brought no benefit to the environment and the animal feed industry, Mr Schmeiser said, adding that ironically pollen transfer from non-genetically modified field to a modified field rather attracted sanctions to the non GM crop grower.

However, Dr George Essegbey, Senior Research Scientist of the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute, who chaired the workshop, said discussions on the Bill on GM crops now appeared to be coloured, and any position must be based on scientific evidence. He, however, said he personally felt the position to reject GM products was wrong.

Dr Essegbey said about 70 per cent of the soya bean in the United States of America was genetically modified, and that technology that was already in existence could not be rejected.

Mr John Eleblu, led a team from of Research Assistants of the Crop Science Department of the University of Ghana, to state that there was noting wrong with GM crop, arguing that GM operations was a kind of biotechnology that started from creation, part of which had been grafting and seed improvement.

Dr Ferdinand Tay, President of the Consumers Association of Ghana, said any GM products should be labelled for consumers to be aware and to make an informed choice.

He said Ghana had not yet developed the capacity to monitor GM foods and needed to proceed cautiously on the issue. He called for the implementation of a moratorium on GM foods adopted by the West African Farmers, during which period he said the capacity should be developed.

Dr Tay added that the Law on Modern Biotechnology should be passed early to bring additional safety and protection to consumers. The workshop was jointly organized by the environmental NGO, Friends of the Earth in Ghana and Nigeria. 13 Jan. 06