MESTI rekindles debate on GMOs

gmo food
  • Minister says such products already on the market
  • Biosafety Authority begins permit issuance for GMO research

The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), has called for a renewed debate on the introduction of genetically modified products onto the Ghanaian market.

The Minister, Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, who was addressing the media during a working tour of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA), says the previous failed attempt to introduce such products in the country, has been as a result of an uninformed debate being perpetrated by some civil society organizations and non-governmental entities.

“But whether we like it or not, such products are already on the Ghanaian market and we have to begin to consider ways to adopt them entirely. Almost all the imported cornflakes including Kellogg’s and several others such as imported vegetables are here in Ghana and these are typical GMO products,” he said.

Citing examples from other jurisdictions, the Minister alluded that genetically modified products have enabled countries like the United States, India and others to have the capacity to feed millions of their citizens, leading to food exports to other countries in Africa.

Currently, up to 92 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered (GE), with both soybean and cotton, constituting 94 percent each as genetically engineered crops in that country. Certain fruits, including bananas are also reported to be genetically cloned.

With these examples from other countries, MESTI has therefore called on the NBA to convince Parliament on why it is necessary for Ghana to adopt genetically engineered food products.

Meanwhile, the Biosafety Authority has emphatically stated that it is not in the position to push the country to adopt such products, adding, “a broader debate is needed to elicit favourable public response.”

“Our work is to convince from an independent position on why GMOs can be beneficial to us as a country. However, we are not in the position to forcefully push or recommend such products to the citizenry,” Eric Amaning Okoree, CEO, National Biosafety Authority, told the B&FT.

But the Authority has said its focal area in 2021 into the immediate future, would broadly centre on permit issuance for GMO research activities, permits for environmental and commercial release of GMOs, permits for non-GMO status of biological materials, permits for GMO monitoring and compliance activities among others.

Though the Biosafety Regulations 2019 is expected to operationalize the parent law allowing for the introduction of GMO foods into the country, the policy has faced many resistance from the Ghanaian public in the past, particularly civil society organizations.

The document outlines how the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) established under the parent act will work to ensure safety of GMO foods. It also lays out specific committees that will help the authority to regulate GMO foods, the processes of application, how to obtain permits for import and export of GMOs, how monitoring and enforcement of GMOs should be done and how public education on GMOs should be conducted.

The tour

During the tour, the Minister pledged to assist the two authorities to meet infrastructural demands and deficits, including vehicles, budgetary allocation for new office complex for the NBA among others requests. “I am interested in assisting to put the right structures in place so that, we can, collectively as Ghanaians, begin to harness the best out of our institutions,” Dr. Kwaku Afriyie maintained.

Leave a Reply