Business News of 2013-12-10

No plans to introduce GMOs into Ghana - Agric Ministry

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has denied pushing a legalisation in support of the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country.

It has, therefore, described as untrue, recent discussions by some institutions, civil society organisations (CSOs) and individuals that the Plant Breeders Bill, currently before Parliament, was meant to give legal backing to the production and consumption of GMOs in the country.

Instead, a Deputy Minister at MOFA in-charge of Crops, Dr Yakubu Alhassan, said the bill was meant to protect people, corporate bodies and research institutions that initiated the development and production of various varieties of plants and crops in the country.

The non-existence of such a law, the minister said, had created a loophole through which some foreign entities and countries were taking advantage to enrich themselves to the disadvantage of the very people who toiled for the creation of those breeds.

"There are a lot of plant and crop varieties that were developed by Ghanaians but today, other countries are using them in their agricultural economies and not a single penny is paid as a reward to this country simply because they were not protected. So, we are saying that let's have a law that can protect varieties developed by institutions and people so that they can benefit from the use of those varieties by third parties," Dr Alhassan, who is also the NDC Member of Parliament for the Mion Constituency in the Northern Region, said.

His comments follow the intense lobbying by some CSOs and political parties against the supposed introduction of GMOs into the country.

GMOs are organisms whose genetic material have been altered using genetic engineering techniques and come about as a result of laboratory process that fuses genes from one species with another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic.

In most cases, they are used to produce genetically modified foods for the western countries. They can be produced on a large scale within a short time and therefore serves as a good relief to countries battling food insufficiency.

Their introduction into the country would, however, come at a cost, especially given that they will compete with naturally produced crops for patronage and consumption.

As a result of the expected impact of GMOs on the farmer communities in the country, some CSOs and individuals including the Chairperson of the Convention People's Party (CPP), Mrs Samia Nkrumah, have kicked against its introduction into the country.

Mrs Samia said at a press conference on November 27 that the Plant Breeders Bill, which was nearing its final stages of hearing in Parliament, was as a result of "an overwhelming lobby" by some multinational food giants to get the country to introduce GMOs.

The CPP Chairperson, however, noted that introducing GMOs into the country through the bill would collapse the food chain and further called on the MPs to kick against its passage.

But the Deputy Minister of Agriculture in-charge of Crops, however, sees that posturing as rather surprising.

"Basically, what the Plant Breeders Bill seeks to do is to protect breeders and not to introduce GMOs to the public," Dr Alhassan insisted.

He thus described as regrettable the on-going debate on the supposed intentions of the bill and called on those championing the discussion to do that using the right information.