Gargantuan scientific terms cause of GMO scare in Ghana – Former Deputy Agric Minister
A former Deputy Minister for Agriculture is calling for a nationwide lecture to bring an end to the debate and confusion on Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) technology as a bad science for food production.
According to Dr. Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, the complex scientific language used to communicate the technology to farmers and consumers is to blame for the undesirable dilemma in the public sphere thus the need for a simple justification to foster the introduction of GMO products unto the Ghanaian market.
“I agree that the demand for science to be simplified for everyday understanding is a legitimate demand particularly that people in society are now more conscious about what product they consume and therefore they will always be ready to ask questions,” he stated.
“Now if they ask questions and they are given answers that are too technical to internalize obviously those who engage in propaganda will definitely win the day. So it is a legitimate demand that science should do so,” he added.
The former Minister was speaking at a movie screening on Genetically Modified Organism for the International Association of Agric Students, University of Ghana at the Silverbird Cinemas at the Accra Mall, Wednesday February 28, 2018.
Dr. Alhassan who is for the motion on the commercialization of Genetically Modified Organism in his submission advocated for science communication to be imbibed in the curricular of science at the various levels of education to clamp down on the ignorance which will aid the acceptance of technological advancements without doubt.
“Many years ago I advocated that science communication should be part and parcel of the study of science because you are not just going to do science in a vacuum but you are going to do science and communicate scientific results for the consumption of the general public,” he bemoaned.
He maintained that “Gone are the days when scientists felt that their business was to generate scientific knowledge or technologies and take it to the public and they will take it without questioning.
“Now the situation is not so because people will definitely be interested in what they consume and in fact will be interested in the processes leading to what they are consuming.”
Dr. Alhassan urged scientific researchers and stakeholders to take on the challenge to bring ease to the minds of consumers who are sensitive to their health.
“Scientist and the scientific community must wake up to that call of simplifying science for the consumption of ordinary people who do not necessarily have a scientific background.”
GMOs are crops produced from seeds which have been altered genetically to introduce desired traits like pest resistance and drought tolerance from other living organisms.
Following the passage of the Biosafety Act 2011 by Parliament, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been undertaking field trials for GM cotton, cowpea and rice as part of regulatory procedures before they are introduced onto the market. The researchers have announced the GMO cowpea will be ready for release onto the market like this year following successful field trials.
The National Seed Trade Association of Ghana (NASTAG) has thrown its weight behind ongoing plans by the government to commercialise Genetically Modified Foods in the country.
They say the technology is crucial to help farmers deal effectively with pest attacks and the impact of climate change which will help accelerate the development of the agricultural sector.
But some civil society groups have raised red flags claiming the adoption of GMO crops will bring devastating health, environmental and economic consequences to the country.
Civil group, Food Sovereignty Ghana has on two occasions sued government over plans to legalise Genetically Modified Foods in the country.
Plans for the production of GMO rice and cotton have since been abandoned because of financial constraints.
Currently, only three countries in Africa including South Africa have commercialised GMOs although it is popular in Northern and Southern America.