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Invest in research in the agric sector – Prof Alhassan charges government

May 31, 2016, 11:19 a.m.

Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, an Agriculture Consultant, has stated that the lack of investment by government into research in the agricultural sector poses a high level of threat to Ghana’s food security in the next 10 years if the situation is not reversed.

“If in 10 years’ time we do not invest in science and technology for the production of food, we will run into serious problems,” he reiterated.

Professor Alhassan disclosed these and more at a Joint Workshop on Media Outreach and Launch of Global Status of Biotechnology and Genetically Modified Crops at Bunso, organised by Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology (OFAB) in collaboration with the Media Platform on Environment and Climate Change (MPEC) to interact with scientists at the Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute (PGRRI).

According to the Agricultural Consultant, the rumours that biotech/GM crops pose serious health threats to human beings are not true, since every GM introduction is investigated to ensure that they are safe for human consumption.

He was of the view that anti-GM groups were not fully putting out the necessary issues that needed to be discussed about GM crops since it had a lot of benefits which would help Ghana’s economy.

Diffusing the fear that biotechnology for food production is extreme and a trend that is not safe, Prof Alhassan pointed out that traditional biotechnology has been in existence since 8000 BC, stating that the preparation of kenkey, pito and others are examples of traditional biotech.

Prof Alhassan cleared the air that there are no GM foods on the Ghanaian market as espoused by anti-GM groups, adding that Ghana has only secured permits to conduct Confined Field Trials (CFT) of cowpea, rice and cotton, which are being supported by some donors.

Detailing the benefits of GM crops, Prof Alhassan noted that food production will increase, which will culminate in the reduction of prices of food, hence ensuring price stability.

Others, he mentioned, are improved nutritional and safety value of food, resistance to environmental factors, provision of labour saving technology and others.

The Agricultural Consultant called for increased awareness creation and support to research capacity of public sector laboratories and also encouraged more public-private partnerships for GM crops.

Dr Lawrence Misa Aboagye, Director, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute (PGRRI), Bunso, in a presentation, stated that annually 30-40% crops are lost globally, which may threaten Ghana’s food security since we import to complement our produce.

He also reiterated that the situation can be changed when safe technologies are applied to increase food production for the survival of mankind.

“CSIR-PGRRI is the foremost institution in Ghana mandated to conserve plant genetic resources. These resources are the basic ‘building blocks’ in any crop improvement endeavour, for sustainable food and nutritional security,” he stressed.

He noted that biotechnological tools are used not only in agriculture but in health, environment and industry.

Professor Kenneth Danso, Director, Biotechnology and Nuclear Research Institute, also stressed the need for government to take research into agricultural issues more seriously so that overdependence on donor support for research will be limited.

“We need to take charge of our own food security issues,” he added.