Biosafety Act Awaits Implementation

Prof Walter Sandow Alhassan

Prof Walter Sandow Alhassan

Even though Ghana’s Biosafety Act (2011) has been adopted, it has not been fully implemented. Preparations are ongoing for the establishment of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), which is expected to permit the Confined Field Trials (CFT) of certain cereals in the country.

Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, Consultant at the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), who stated this, said an interim framework, which is still in force, allows the National Biosafety Commission under the Ministry of Environment, Science& Technology (MEST) to authorize CFT on potential biotech products.

“Confined field trials have been approved for Bt cowpea, NUR rice, protein-enhanced sweet potato. There is also an interest in releasing Bt cotton.”

On adoption challenges, he said there was the need for continuous awareness creation, management of genetically-modified crops at farmer and other levels, harmonizing bio-safety regimes in sub-regions and ensuring user-friendly bio-safety regimes.

Between 1996 and 2012 when genetically-modified foods were adopted in some parts of the world, it has gained a 100-fold increase covering 170.3 million hectares.

“A record 17.3 million farmers in 28 countries planted 170.3 million hectares (420 million acres) in 2012, a sustained increase of 6 percent or 10.3 million hectares (25 million acres) over 2011.”

With Sudan and Cuba as the two new developing countries producing Bt cotton and Bt maize respectively, progress is being made in Africa with CFT in priority crops.

For example in Burkina Faso, there is cowpea undergoing CFT even though that country’s Bt Cotton has been commercialized.

Cameroon started its first biotech trial in 2012; Egypt is growing cotton, maize, tomato and sugarcane on CFT while Kenya is doing maize, cotton, cassava, sorghum and sweet potato.

Nigeria is also doing cassava, cowpea and sorghum while Malawi is growing cotton on CFT. With South Africa doing maize, cassava, cotton, potato and sugarcane, Uganda is seriously undertaking CBT on maize, banana, cassava, cotton, sweet potato and rice.

For the first time, developing countries planted more than half (52 percent) of global area exceeding industrial countries which produced 48 percent.

Brazil was the largest producer worldwide by 6.3 million hectares at 21 percent.

By Samuel Boadi