Biotechnology scientists converge in Ghana to deliberate on genetically modified organisms

Biotechnology scientists converge in Ghana to deliberate on genetically modified organisms

Scientists behind biotechnology have gathered in Ghana, Accra to deliberate on how genome editing and genetically modified organism technologies can be applied appropriately to benefit African farmers and the world at large.

Genome editing technology is a tool that enables genetic engineering where DNA is replaced, deleted or inserted in the genome of a living organism while a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is an animal, plant, or microbe whose DNA has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.

The International Symposium held on the theme: Increasing Access to New Tools, Technologies and Methods in Africa’s Agriculture on Friday among other issues discussed the future of biotech crops in Africa from the perspectives of scientists, government, officials and regulators.

Speaking at the conference, Dr Leena Tripathi, Eastern Africa Director of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Leader of Biotechnology, said farmers at most times lose about 80 per cent of their crops to pests and other diseases leaving many in abject poverty.

In addition, he explained that due to the pests, farmers sometimes sprayed pesticides eight times in a season, pointing out that such constant spraying cost farmers a lot of money.

Dr Tripathi indicated that scientists had developed the pod borer-resistant (PBR) varieties to help fight pests that destroyed the crop at all stages of its development and was hopeful that regulators would work with them to help alleviate poverty among farmers and also ensure the country’s food security.

The Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Yaw Frimpong Addo, lamented that agriculture and food production remained a major priority of the country however, successive governments had made relentless efforts to make investments, guided by policies and strategies to ensure sustainable agriculture.

Mr Addo noted that food remained indispensable for the survival of humans and that science had established that there was limited time beyond which mankind could not survive without food adding that “investment in agriculture, with support from education and health, will guarantee sustainable food production and nutrition for citizens globally.

“The government is not relenting in its efforts to transform agriculture as the sector is the driving force behind the economy, presenting the best opportunity for accelerated industrialisation, job creation and poverty reduction,” he underscored.

Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, Founding Director, West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement, observed that smallholder farmers in Africa needed access to biotech crops more than farmers anywhere else in the world.

According to him, the time had come for African governments to use available data on biotech solutions to take decisions that would improve livelihoods and lift millions out of extreme hunger and poverty in Africa.

By Benedicta Gyimaah Folley

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