The Minister designate for Food and Agriculture, Dr Afriyie Akoto, has pledged the commitment of the government to support farmers to use technology and modern forms of farming to increase their yield. He explained that even though the country woud not adopt the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in farming, well researched methods such as hybrids and grafting will be used to improve crop varieties. The minister designate made this known when he took his turn before the parliamentary Appointments Committee for vetting on January 23. Responding to a question about the call by Sovereignty Ghana for his nomination to be dropped because he is alleged to have supported the introduction of GM crops in the country through the introduction of the Plant Breeders Bill, he described the call as unfortunate and ill-informed. “I do not know why some people think the Plant Breeders Bill is meant to support GMOs in the country”, he said adding that “the bill only seeks to protect the intellectual property of our agriculture research scientists and nothing to do with GMOs.” Dr Afriyie-Akoto who sounded confident and was on top of issues regarding the sector he will be heading when approved said much as GMO has helped many countries to boost their agricultural sector, Ghana was not ready for GMOs and gave the assurance that, when given the nod, he would ensure that various methods of farming to increase yield at a lesser cost for farmers will be championed. GMO controversy Genetically modified food controversies are disputes over the use of foods and other goods derived from genetically modified crops instead of conventional crops, and other uses of genetic engineering in food production. The dispute involves consumers, farmers, biotechnology companies, governmental regulators, non-governmental organisations, and scientists. The key areas of controversy related to genetically modified food (GM food or GMO food) are whether such food should be labeled, the role of government regulators, the objectivity of scientific research and publication, the effect of genetically modified crops on health and the environment, the effect on pesticide resistance, the impact of such crops for farmers, and the role of the crops in feeding the world population. In addition, products derived from GMO organisms play a role in the production of ethanol fuels and pharmaceuticals. Specific concerns include mixing of genetically modified and non-genetically modified products in the food supply, effects of GMOs on the environment, the rigor of the regulatory process, and consolidation of control of the food supply in companies that make and sell GMOs. Advocacy groups such as the Center for Food Safety, Organic Consumers Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Greenpeace, and in Ghana, Food Sovereignty Ghana, say risks have not been adequately identified and managed, and they have questioned the objectivity of regulatory authorities. GMOs in sub region AS Much as there is no law approving the use of GMOs on the farms in Ghana, there is currently combined fields trials of GM rice by the Crop Research Institute (CRI) in the Ashanti Region. Field trials for BT cotton are already planted and underway, in selected areas of the country. The trials are being again conducted by CRI of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI). The new GM crops include Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) cotton as well as rice, cowpea and potato. BT is a pesticide which is used to control the bollworms in cotton according to the Genetic Literacy Project. No GMOs for Ghana Dr Afriyie-Akoto said GMOs will not be encouraged in the country. However, the government will ensure that Ghanaian farmers are guided with modern ways of farming to help increase to meet local demand and for exports. The Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Joe Osei-Wusu, also added his voice to the ranging controversy over the Plant Breeders Bill saying, the bill had nothing to do with GMOs. Subsequently, he asked Food Sovereignty Ghana, to keep abreast of the bill and desist from making it sound as if the House was passing something against the wishes of the masses.
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