GHANA – Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ghana’s leading research institute has endorsed the use of modern biotechnology, an area considered vital in enhancing food security.

According to USDA’s GAIN, the approval was made by Dr. Victor Agyeman, Director-General CSIR in an interview with the country’s leading newspaper, Business & Financial Times.

Dr. Agyeman identified modern biotechnological techniques which include breeding and fermentation as some of the vital new sciences needed in a country where fluctuations in the food sector is not strange.

Food insecurity in Ghana is attributable to use of inferior seeds, traditional agricultural practices including tools and techniques, competition for land use, and climate change while demand for food products is driven by rapid population growth and increasing prosperity.

A report by GAIN quoted Dr. Vivian Oduro, a senior research scientist at the Biotechnology Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute noting that modern biotechnology presents the potential of mitigating disease infections in staple crops such as mosaic or brown streak virus in cassava, eventually enhancing food security in Ghana.

In regard to these, modern biotechnology seeds will be made available for farmers as a preference but not a mandate.

In Ghana, GMO crops are yet to be cultivated but the National Biosafety Authority has authorized confined field trials for Bt. Cowpea and NEWEST rice.

Challenges and opportunities

Genetic modification which involves use of science to address certain agricultural and health challenges has been inculpated as ‘unethical’ process and equal to playing God but Dr. Agyeman has contrasting sentiments.

“The use of modern biotechnology should not be a cause for alarm,” he said.

“The process is essentially science, and science is the way to go and modern biotechnology including genetic modification is one of the vital new sciences we need as a country.”

A report published in the February 15th, 2018 edition of Nature’s ‘Scientific Reports’ by a team of researchers indicates that genetically modified crops offers high yields by addressing pests and weeds.

As the biotechnology tools are developed and adapted, there are sectors that need critical attention, and these include biosafety issues, and regulatory mechanisms on biotechnology.