GMO CONTROVERSY! National well-being wins over foreign interests as gov’t ditches GMOs

Image of the various transformation of corn from its early state to the current state. Photo credit: Crop Life International

Various farmer associations and agriculture-focused organisations have hailed government’s decision to stop the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into the country as a victory for public interest and safety.

This came after the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, reposed confidence in local scientists’ ability to use traditional breeding methods to produce high yielding varieties and disease-resistant plants for cultivation by farmers, and not GMOs – which he emphasised the country might never be in need of in the next 100 years.

The minister’s declaration has been well-received across board, with the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) of the Trade Union Congress, Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) and Centre for Indigenous Knowledge & Organisational Development (CIKOD), among others which have been championing the anti-GMO campaign, welcoming government’s stance on the controversial matter.

“The earlier stance of the group against multi-national seed companies and their Ghanaian pro-GMO agents to control seed production and rip the patent rights of a single seed purchased by farmers must be commended.

“Accepting GMOs in Ghana would have been contrary to the president’s vision of developing Ghana Beyond Aid and further impoverished smallholder farmers who would have had to buy expensive seeds every year,” read a statement signed by PFAG’s National President and Board Chair, Abdul Rahman Mohammed.

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Opponents of GM crops in the country have consistently pointed to the role of multinational companies like Monsanto, which sell genetically modified ‘hybrid’ seeds that do not self-pollinate; compelling farmers to purchase new seeds from the same companies each year, as well as their pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers.

This, the PFAG argues, would only go to worsen the plight of the country’s many poor peasant and subsistence farmers who cannot afford to buy such GMO seeds season after season.

The group therefore commended President Nana Akufo-Addo’s role in the fight against GMOs, saying: “We are thankful for your sensitivity toward Ghanaian farmers and putting our fears to rest by giving us a verdict on the issue of GMOs”.

The statement, while urging government to invest more resources into agro-ecology sustainable farming as a way of developing the agricultural sector and combatting climate change, entreated all stakeholders to promote the local seed industry.

Instructively, the local farmers of today are faced with high cost of mechanisation services, impact of climate change, bush-fires, high cost of inputs, high post-harvest losses, and limited extension staff.

“It is for this that we believe increasing investment in these areas will go a long way to empower farmers and attract more youth to develop careers in the agriculture value chain. GMOs are meant for corporate takeover of the seed industry and to exploit Ghanaian farmers. Since GMOs are now defeated, the focus should be on addressing the above constraints,” the statement emphasised.

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The domestic seed sector, among other things, is plagued with numerous constraints ranging from poor resources for research institutions such as the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) and academic institutions of learning to provide foundation seeds; limited irrigation facilities; poor transportation/storage facilities; and difficulty in access to credit for support seed production and distribution.

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