Dr Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw, a Senior Scientist at Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) has stated that biotechnology seeks to engineer only crops found to have high economic value but are low yielding.
“Biotechnology was therefore not targeted at engineering every crop in the system, but rather only those of high economic value”, he said, in an attempt to dismiss claims that crops in Ghana were going to be genetically engineered.
There has been controversies and misconceptions that genetically modified organism crops posed health risks and would displace Ghanaian farmers when introduced into the country.
But, Dr Ampadu-Amayaw told journalists at a media training workshop in Wa that the information being circulated was false and misleading as the GMO crops had been used by several countries for the past 20 years without any report of death.
The training organised by Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology (OFAB) Ghana on the theme: “Exemplary Journalism, Credible Science Reporting and better Public Understanding of Science Technology and Innovation”.
Dr Ampadu-Ameyaw, who is also OFAB Ghana Coordinator noted that the bad impression created ahead of the introduction of biotechnology in the country especially regarding GMOs was unfortunate.
Describing what was happening with respect to GMOs as a political economic battle, he said OFAB was determined to educate farmers to understand the benefits of the new technology and adopt it for improved crop production.
“The technology is going to help produce quality seeds, but it does not mean that current technology used in producing conventional seeds is not going to produce quality seeds any longer”, he said.
He said several farmers could attest to the fact that strange diseases and pests like fall army worm had been attacking crops and causing devastations to farms.
Scientists say some diseases could not be controlled with the conventional breeding, but with the new technology, the crops are engineered to withstand specific diseases and harsh environmental conditions.
“There are several forms of the biotechnology and one of them is the GMO mechanism. With this technology, the breeders go directly into the gene map to extract the gene of desired character and put it in the commercial variety”, he said.
Dr Ampadu-Ameyaw said one advantage of biotechnology to smallholder farmers was that it would help reduce the number of times a farmer sprayed crops and If farmers were able to control pests and diseases through planting high pests and disease resistant crops, they would have good yield and higher market opportunity, he added.
He also demystified perceptions that because of the debate surrounding biotechnology, organic crops were going to have higher market than GMOs and said even though biotechnology was expensive, public institutions were getting involved in the research and that cost would not be an issue as there was subsidy packages for GMO products.
“GMO is not the panacea to solving all agricultural problems, but a complement to the existing technologies”, he added.
More than 30 journalists from around 20 media houses attended the workshop meant to educate them on biotechnology and help educate farmers.