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20.01.2006 General News

W/A need a law on biotechnology - Prof


Accra, Jan. 20, GNA- Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, West African Coordinator, Programme for Bio-Safety Systems on Friday expressed regret that no West African country had put in place a bio-safety law in this age of Genetically Modified Organism. He said: "As at now no country within the Sub-Region has a bio-safety law in place, although Ghana and Nigeria have made great advancement in the formulation of their biotechnological framework and safety guidelines.

"Ghana's framework is still before Cabinet awaiting passage into law," he told over 40 participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Liberia and South Africa at the end of a five-day international workshop on biotechnology and bio-safety which opened in Accra last Monday.

The workshop was organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) with collaboration from the Ministry of Environment and Science.

Biotechnology is a scientific system being used to improve gene culture in plants and animals to be either tolerant or resistant to diseases and weather conditions.

Prof Alhassan said Burkina Faso under a Presidential decree had planted genetically modified cotton, which was in its third year of production, hence the need for Ghana to get its laws in place as early as possible to control the movement of this cotton across its boarders. He said Ghana was party to the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety, hence the need for it to observe the obligations and rights of countries that were party to the protocol.

Opening the workshop Ms Christine Churcher, Minister of Environment and Science, told the participants: "Ghana, specifically and indeed Africa as a whole need to take advantage of the progress that has been made in modern biotechnology to be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

She said the progress biotechnology had made in agriculture, health, energy and industry could go a long way to help Ghana to meet the targets set in the MDGs.

Prof Alhassan said the concern of the Minister was in the right direction, yet there was the need for a regulatory framework to be in place to harness the technology.

He said a sub-regional research organisation, West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF), has commissioned a study on biotechnology for the Sub-Region as a way of building capacity for its biotechnologists.

He said the Council had put in motion a development programme for bio-safety and biotechnology for the Sub-Region.

He noted that Agriculture Ministers subjected the framework drawn up by this group to a discussion at a conference at Bamako Mali in June 2004 and that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Secretariat should develop an action plan to be implemented on Biotechnology and Bio Safety in the Sub-Region before 2007. An ECOWAS Ministerial Meeting to be held in Ghana this year would discuss the plan.