Ghanaian Plant Breeder and Founding Director of the West Africa Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana, Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, says smallholder farmers in Africa need more access to biotech crops than farmers around the world.
For him, the time has come for African governments to use the available data on biotech solutions to make decisions that would improve livelihoods and lift millions of people out of extreme hunger and poverty in Africa.
He expressed concern that “anti-GMO activism has blocked the adoption of genetically modified crops in many countries, contributing to the perpetuation of unsafe pesticide use, hunger and poverty. “.
Professor Danquah made the remarks at a training workshop for scientists, graduate students undertaking research related to agricultural biotechnology, researchers, undergraduate students studying agriculture and related programs, communicators and agricultural actors in Accra on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
The workshop, dubbed “Speaking Science Ghana” and organized by Alliance for Science, a science communication initiative, aimed to equip participants with effective communication skills that they can use to raise awareness about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and to agricultural biotechnology.
The workshop also aimed to equip participants with the best skills in using the media to communicate about science, including writing opinion pieces, giving media interviews and using tools digital media.
Alliance for Science is a science communication initiative that strives to promote science globally, while combating misinformation about scientific innovations and scientific issues such as GMOs, gene editing, COVID -19 and climate change.
Professor Danquah said that currently only seven countries in Africa had approved GMOs, pointing out that GMOs were in various stages of development in 11 other African countries, including Ghana.
He opined that “there is an urgent need to produce more food on less land with less chemicals”, stating that “the development of improved varieties of our staple crops with high yields and resistance to physical stresses and biological is absolutely necessary”. necessary for a green revolution and food self-sufficiency in Ghana.
He explained that science-based agriculture could preserve key indigenous foods such as cowpea, millet, cassava and sorghum, while reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture.
Professor Danquah said: “On average, GM crops reduced the use of chemical pesticides by 37%, increased crop yields by 2%, increased farmers’ profits by 38% and reduced gas emissions to greenhouse effect, which is equivalent to removing 12 million cars. road.”
He argued that farmers around the world were grappling with the devastating effects of climate change, pointing out that disrupted rainfall patterns, drought, extreme weather events, pest infestations, plant diseases, crop losses harvests and hunger had forced African governments to embrace biotechnology. solutions such as GMO crops.
“Better seeds developed through genetic engineering offer hope,” he said, adding “Let’s not let regulatory delays prevent millions of farmers from accessing this vital technology.”
Professor Danquah therefore called for the integration of the rapidly evolving tools of modern biotechnology, including genome editing, into crop improvement programs to make agriculture “in Ghana more productive and sustainable”.
He also called on the government to give the country’s farmers the freedom to select and adopt crops developed through modern science in plant breeding, including GM technology, saying that “Ghana needs a comprehensive science policy that places science at the apex of agricultural transformation. agenda.”
He noted that biotechnology solutions and innovations allow scientists to solve agricultural problems that conventional farming methods were unable to solve, saying that “this can be achieved precisely and efficiently using plant biotechnologies and genomics as important tools. “.
Professor Danquah explained that biotech innovations protect crops against insects and weeds, the two main challenges that militate against crop yields and lead to crop failures around the world.
He also expressed concern about the growing misinformation about GMO crops in the country, saying: “It’s been 27 years since the first GMOs were released and I don’t know of a single credible food issue. or animal feed on the safety of GMOs”.
Furthermore, he noted, “there is a very strong scientific consensus globally on GMOs, just as scientists are on climate change.”
For Professor Danquah, it is worrying that despite the fact that official scientific reports on the safety and benefits of GMOs have been published by the World
Health Organisation, Food and Agriculture Organisation, National Academic of Sciences (USA), Royal Society (UK), American Medical Association (USA), French Academy of Medicine, European Commission, US Food and Drugs Administration, Society of Toxicology and Institute of Food Technology, some uninformed people still peddled lies about GMOs.