Methodist Prelate Demystifies Gm Foods

THE METHODIST Bishop of Kumasi, Right Very Reverend Professor Osei Sarfo Kantanka has debunked the growing assertions about Genetically Modified (GM) Food, which has been the centre stage in the Ghanaian media lately.

Some civil society groups, such as Food Sovereignty Ghana and Centre for Agricultural Research have launched a series of anti GM food campaign, saying the new technology was not good and is a sort of colonial appendage from the Western world.

But the Methodist Prelate says the main reason that GM seeds are poisonous as advanced in the campaign against GM foods is a hoax and attributed the situation to the fact that Ghanaians do not appreciate research in agriculture.

‘Research is such a herculean task, which consumes much time and energy to get a new plant’.

The Science Professor indicated that it is nobody’s intention to create a monster and poison people on eating GM foods, noting that lack of proper information is killing Ghanaians, rather than anything else.

Right Rev. Prof. Kantanka said since people did not understand the issue about GM foods and are making so much noise, the government must take steps to educate them, advising that experts must voluntarily explain things to the masses to avoid the people being polluted with false information.   

He said GM was a modern form of plant breeding in which instead of so many years of selection of genes, breeding period is shortened by taking advantage of the presence of chromosomes.

Professor Kantanka noted that Genetic Modification is basically a short cut used in plant and animal breeding and explained that GM is traditional plant breeding by which the good qualities (genes) of plants are transferred from says plant ‘B’ to another called ‘A’ to get a new type called AB, which incorporate the good characteristics of A and B.

He said if plant A has bacteria and fungus diseases, which are susceptible or the quality of fruits might not be of good taste, but plant B has low yield but very high quality of food, the good qualities of B are transferred to A to get its genes modified to get AB.

The Agricultural professor  indicated that in traditional plant breeding, one needs to keep on selecting and crossing till one finally gets the type of plant needed; saying ‘That is all traditional breeding is about, but now biotechnology has come to truncate all the hassle of selecting and crossing of plants in the traditional plant breeding.’

He wondered if Ghanaians are willing to adopt a modern way of doing things or want to cling to the traditional ways of crop and animal breeding.

The Kumasi Methodist Diocese Bishop noted that God has not asked us to do this to man, but he has given man the authority over plants and animal and scientists have been able to screen the type of gene that we want from a plant.

‘Now we can extract the DNA of plants, and scientists have been able to locate the individual genes hence they can go in for the particular gene quality they want from a plant’, he said stressing: ‘Now we have the technology, and instead of going through all this hassle of crossing and selection of plants, we now go and cut the specific DNA and insert it into a plant which has the old qualities plus the new qualities’.

According to the agriculture doyen, it takes a lot of time and energy to select and get the right combination of genes for the plant one needs as in resistant to diseases, good quality of food, the right plant type that matures at the right time in traditional plant breeding.

‘Science says if you are interested in a particular gene, you go and cut it, and then you isolate it and insert it in another plant,’ he noted.

He said ‘since we have the technology we can get the type of gene that controls the type of character we want in plants which we can transfer to a particular plant we want and an animal which eats a certain amount of food which can be converted into meat.’

According to him, farmers are supposed to patronize hybrid seeds from a seed company, but unfortunately, they just pluck a fruit or pick seeds from a hybrid farm, and this leads to segregation, meaning the yields will look like the two genes which were combined together to produce the hybrid seed and contribute to a bad harvest unlike the original seed which will produce good yields.  

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