Ghanaian chief calls for commercialization of GMOs

By Richmond Frimpong

July 9, 2020

A Ghanaian chief, Nana Adjie Panin II, has called for the country’s commercialization of genetically modified (GM) seeds.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) would be a panacea to the existing negative agricultural practices around the globe, according to the chief, who lives in Deduako, a farming community in the Ashanti region of Ghana.

His assertions are based on his observations that chemical usage associated with agriculture is having a grave toll on the environment, human health and soil nutrients, and GM crops could reduce that impact.

The chief, who is also a peasant farmer, made his remarks to members of the Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARDJA) during their recent visit to his five-acre conventional farm at Deduako. He grows a variety of crops, including yam, plantain, cocoyam, cassava and cocoa.

Despite the controversy around GMOs in the country, he said this appropriate technology should be adopted with no shred of doubt since it can stand the test of time.

To him, genetic engineering offers a dramatic step forward to a more friendly way of saving the environment from complete destruction.

The chief observed that pesticides and insecticide are causing the soil to lose its rich mineral content and fertility.

He said these chemicals have had an adverse effect on nature, arguing that previously, after plowing and fallowing, mushrooms, snails, cocoyam and other crops sprang up from the soil naturally. But that is not the case today because of the abuse of farm chemicals.

Studies conducted in 2018 show that on average, GM technology has reduced chemical pesticide use on farms by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22 percent and increased farm profits by 68 percent.

The chief urged Ghanaians to learn to adapt to change and support this technology so the country can thrive. He implored the government to liaise with the appropriate stakeholders to work towards the introduction of GMOs into the country without any delays.

Ghana’s parliament passed the National Biosafety Act in 2011 to guide the management of GMOs in the country. The law established the National Biosafety Authority to manage the introduction, transportation, import, export and handling of GMOs in Ghana. So far, however, no GM crop has been commercialized in the country.

Currently, trials are ongoing to allow for the introduction of locally produced GM cowpea and rice. A study published last year by scientists at the University of Ghana and other institutions predicted the nation’s cowpea sector will grow by nearly 10 percent annually over the next six years if GM cowpea is introduced. The study forecasts the new insect-resistant cowpea could add US$52million (GH₵230m) to the cowpea production economy by 2025.

Richmond Frimpong is the president of the Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARDJA) and a 2019 Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellow.

Image: Chief Nana Adjie Panin II, right, and Richmond Frimpong