Ghanaian and Kenyan stakeholders in the agricultural sector on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 held a workshop on bio-technology seed production to share ideas and deliberate on issues relating to bio-tech seeds in Africa and other parts of the world.
The one-day workshop was organized by the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA), Kenya, in collaboration with the Ghana Agricultural Association Business and Information Centre (GAABIC), which is the umbrella body of the participating organizations.
The stakeholders were mainly from seed trading organizations and associations including: the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA), Kenya; Crop-Life-Ghana (CLG); Seed Producers Association of Ghana (SEEDPAG); Ghana Agro-Input Dealers Association (GAIDA); researchers and scientists.
Recently, there have been what some people refer to as ‘significant’ controversies in Ghana concerning whether or not farmers should resort to bio-technology seeds in producing food crops. The controversies are still lingering on.
This, according to the General Manager of Crop-Life Ghana, Mr. William Kotey, who is also the chairman of GAABIC, made it necessary for the stakeholders to meet and share ideas and knowledge on the issue.
He said the workshop was relevant for the stakeholders to discuss the issue of bio-tech seeds and the concerns it has brought about in many African countries, and plan the way forward.
Speaking on the topic: ‘Bio-tech Seed – a necessary tool for the future’, the country coordinator of Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS), Mr. Daniel OseiOfosu, said the use of bio-technology seeds are a significant step forward in the production of agriculture crops.
He explained that bio-tech seeds are seeds that have been modified to contain specific characteristics such as resistance to herbicides and pests, especially in the case ofBt corn.
According to Mr. Ofosu, research has shown that bio-technology seeds have immense benefits.
These are: increased crop yield, improved nutritional quality of crops, less use of pesticides, herbicides and many others.
He stated, however, that the method of modification used with bio-tech seeds varies from the traditional method in an important respect – i.e.,the genes have not been modified over generation of cross fertilisation, but rather inserted directly into the DNA of the soil.
Another issue, he noted, was that even though the modification is efficient, there is the fear of environmental and health impacts.
The PBS Country Coordinator said the argument that bio-tech seeds can’t be replanted was not correct, becasue the seeds can be saved and replanted. He said through this process, the Center for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had produced at least 28 maize varieties since 1984.
The Director of Crop Research Institute (CRI), Dr. Hans Adu-Dapaah, reiterated that bio-tech seeds are cheaper and improve nutritional quality.
He said the use of bio-technology seeds reduce labour force, leads to less use of heavy machinery and less fuel for weeding, making the cost of producing crops relatively low; and that bio-tech seeds products have longer shelf life.
According to Dr. Dapaah, agriculture in recent times had been besieged by many challenges such as climate change and declined soil fertility, thus making it important for the adoption of bio-tech seeds to boost agriculture.
‘We are not saying bio-tech seeds might not have side effects. Even if there are, the benefits are more than those negative effects. So what we have to do is to consider the seeds, and take measures to forestall the possibility of any related problems,’ Dr. Dapaah advocated.
Mr. Daniel Aghan, chairman of AFSTA, on the global status of bio-technology crops said the use of bio-tech seeds was seen to make inroads in Africa in the near future, despite the debates about the seeds which have been ongoing for some time now, with some countries commercializing the agricultural production using bio-tech seeds while others have completely banned it.
He said a survey which was carried out in 2012 among some farmer groups in Kenya indicated that 56.5% of the farmer groups’ stand on bio-technology was influenced by fear of environmental harm and fear for food safety, and negative public perception that may affect the market.
Mr. Aghan disclosed, however, that the groups were willing to trade in bio-tech seeds and therefore called on the mass media and agricultural research institutes both in Kenya and Ghana to provide knowledge and information to the farmers or seed companies to deploy good plans towards the production of such crops.
This, he said, called for the need for more studies on bio-technology seeds to have enough information for seed production to improve agriculture production in Africa.
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