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GMOs Get the Green Light in Ghana.

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GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) have become a topic of intense debate and scrutiny in recent years. These are organisms whose genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. While proponents argue that GMOs can help address global challenges like food security and climate change, critics raise concerns about their potential impact on human health and the environment. This article explores the various aspects of GMOs, from their creation to the controversies surrounding their use.


In April 2024, Ghana’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA) approved the commercialization of 14 new genetically modified (GM) products, including eight maize events and six soybean events. This landmark decision allows these GM products to be used as food, feed, and industrial products, marking a significant milestone in the country’s effort to leverage biotechnology for agricultural development.

Biotechnology’s Promise and Controversy

This approval aligns with Ghana’s strategy to enhance local food production and nutrition while boosting agricultural exports. It follows the 2022 authorization of GM cowpea, resistant to the Maruca pod borer, which drastically reduces the need for chemical treatments compared to its conventional counterpart. This development reflects broader efforts across Africa to harness modern biotechnologies for agricultural and health sector advancements.

AUDA-NEPAD, through the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) programme, has been instrumental in helping African countries establish biosafety regulatory systems. These systems aim to ensure that biotechnologies are utilized safely, supporting the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which envisions “a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.”

Legal Hurdles and Public Sentiment

However, the journey towards embracing GMOs in Ghana has not been without challenges. On May 23, 2024, Ghana’s High Court dismissed a suit filed by Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), a civil society organization, which opposed the commercialization of GMOs. The plaintiffs, including the Vegetarians’ Association and the Convention People’s Party, raised concerns about the adherence to legal processes and the adequacy of risk assessments.

Justice Barbara Tetteh Charwey, presiding over the case, ruled that the evidence presented by FSG was insufficient to halt the commercialization of GMOs. The Court mandated that all GM products be labeled, ensuring that consumers can make informed choices. Additionally, the NBA was instructed to educate the public on GMOs to alleviate concerns and promote understanding.

Mr. Eric Okoree Amaning, CEO of NBA, clarified post-judgment that no GMOs were currently on the market, emphasizing that ongoing research was the focus. He also addressed the absence of data on GMOs from Nigeria in the Ghanaian market, complying with the Court’s order for transparency.

Despite the Court’s ruling, FSG’s counsel, Mr. Wayo Ghanamanti, voiced concerns about the potential health risks of GMOs, advocating for conventional agricultural practices given Ghana’s fertile lands. He stressed the importance of monitoring the NBA to ensure compliance with the Court’s directives.

Moving Forward

The approval of GM products in Ghana represents a critical step towards modernizing agriculture and achieving food security. It underscores the potential of biotechnology to transform African agriculture, aligning with the continent’s aspirations for sustainable development. However, the controversy surrounding GMOs highlights the need for robust regulatory frameworks and public education to address safety concerns and build trust.

As Ghana navigates this complex landscape, the balance between innovation and caution will be crucial. The decisions made today will shape the future of Ghanaian agriculture and its role in the global food system, reflecting a broader narrative of progress and change across Africa.

References

  • “Ghana Approves 14 New GM Products for Commercialization.” (2024). National Biosafety Authority.
  • “Court Dismisses Anti-GMO Lawsuit in Ghana.” (2024). Accra High Court Proceedings.
  • “AUDA-NEPAD and African Union’s Agenda 2063.” (2024). African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE).

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