A former Deputy Agriculture Minister is calling for an end to the bastardisation of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) technology as a bad science for food production.

Dr. Ahmed Alhassan Yakubu says GMO technology (broadly referred to as biotechnology) is the latest scientific innovation that is driving food production across the world and Ghana should not sit on the fence as the technology advances.

“It is a science for the present and the future and Ghana cannot afford to miss the boat…We want Ghana to become a great country and the only way it can happen is through science and technology,” Dr. Yakubu stated.

“The peculiarities of Africa and therefore Ghana should let us have a re-think about the negative dirt that we throw at biotechnology as a science. It is extremely important we do so,” he added.

Dr. Yakubu who is also former Member of Parliament for Mion was speaking to Joy News at a training for science reporters from across the West African sub-region on biotechnology organised by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in Accra.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is currently undertaking trials for GMO cowpea and rice as part of regulatory procedures before they are allowed onto the market, most likely in 2018.

But some civil society groups have raised red flags claiming the adoption of GMO crops will bring devastating health, environmental and economic consequences to the country.

But Project Manager in charge of the Open Forum on Agric Biotechnology at AATF Daniel Otunge says that is inaccurate. He insists there is no scientific evidence to back the claims that GMOs are unsafe.

“The European Union conducted 25 years of research on GMOs before commercialisation and another 10 years after they were commercialized and published a report which concluded that there is no effect of this technology on the environment, human beings and live stock.

"Based on that assurance, we say, why shouldn’t Africa also benefit from this beneficial technology,” he stated.

Assistant Director of the National Biotechnology Development Agency in Nigeria Dr. Rose Gidado who spoke at the training noted that increasing yield is the ultimate role of modern agricultural production and scientific innovation is the only way to achieve this, hence the need to adopt biotechnology.

Dr. Emmanuel Chambas who works with the Savannah Agric Research Institute of the CSIR in Tamale noted that with the adoption of GMO technology, it will be possible for farmers to increase yield whilst using even fewer resources.

 

“Resource poor farmers can still have good yields without fertilizer,” he said.

Source: myjoyonline

Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), a UK-based inter-governmental not-for-profit organisation, has pledged support for the “Planting for Food and Jobs” initiative being implemented by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA).

CABI, through its capacity-building programme, intends to facilitate the training of agricultural extension agents for them to acquire the necessary skills to drive the project.

Delegation

The Chief Executive Officer of CABI, Dr Trevor Nicholls, made the pledge when he led a delegation to pay a courtesy call on the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, last Friday. The CABI delegation comprised the Director-General for Development, Dr Dennis Rangi; the Director for Africa Region, Dr Morris Akiri; and the Regional Coordinator for West Africa, Dr Victor A. Clottey.

Dr Nicholls and his team have been on a tour of Ghana to hold bilateral discussions with key agencies of government, including CABI’s host, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and other international organisations operating in Ghana.

Collaboration

Briefing the minister on CABI’s activities in Ghana, Dr Nicholls recounted the long-standing relations his organisation has had with the ministry, citing the implementation of the Plantwise project as one of the flagship projects of CABI.

The Plantwise project seeks to improve food security and rural livelihood by reducing crop losses through practical health advice to Ghanaian farmers.

The project, he indicated, would also form the basis of the extension training programme for agricultural extension agents involved in the "Planting for Food and Jobs” initiative of the government.

Dr Nicholls also informed the minister about his organisation’s lead role in the identification of the ‘Fall Army Worm’ that had attacked many crops on the continent. He said CABI had organised a workshop for various stakeholders to find ways of managing the pest in the short, medium to long terms

Commendation

Dr Akoto commended CABI for its efforts to ensure the growth of the agricultural sector in Africa, stating that CABI’s investment in Ghana would go a long way to promote food security.

The CABI delegation was accompanied by the Director-General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Prof. Victor K. Agyeman, and a Senior Scientific Officer at the CSIR Head Office, Mr Edward Decker.

The delegation had earlier called on the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, where their discussions centred on the possibility of establishing a joint laboratory in Ghana and the need to support Ghana in the development of a framework for biodiversity conservation.

The team’s visit to Ghana was climaxed with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between CABI and CSIR on Access and Benefit Sharing in the utilisation of genetic resources.

Details: Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor 

 

The Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has released four new yam varieties. They are Afaase Adepa, Afaase Hoodenfoo, Afaase Biri and Afaase Soanyinto.

The new varieties, which have been tried and evaluated for over 10 years, are said to be very nutritious, high yielding and pest resistant, can be used for ice-cream and noodles and safe for diabetic patients.

Presentation

At a programme to officially introduce the new varieties in Kumasi last Tuesday, the leader of the 11-member team that worked on the new yam varieties, Dr Emmanuel Otoo, explained that the new varieties were improved versions of the water yam currently on the market.

He said research conducted on the new varieties had shown that they could be used as a substitute for white yam which is widely consumed in the country and also be used for other products such as ice-cream and noodles and even in the cosmetic industry for body cream.

According to him, there is a high market demand for the varieties in the sub-region and mentioned countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire where water yam is in high demand.

Dr Otoo said even though demand for water yam was low in the country, there was a high demand for it in neighbouring countries, and as such “Ghana can easily produce the seedlings to supply them”.

Values

He said the new yam varieties could be used for all forms of food and had very high starch content.

He said the new Afaase varieties had health benefits and could be used by diabetic patients, adding that aside from that, they were cheaper and highly profitable when cultivated on a commercial scale.

He appealed to the government to support the institute to produce seedlings of the new varieties to feed into the government’s ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme.

Some of the harvested varieties of the yam at the barn. Pictures: Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor

SOURCE: Graphic Online

SEBASTIAN SYME ;

A water quality monitoring and assessment index of the major rivers of Ghana from 2013 has established a considerable decrease in the quality of water in most of the river basins due to the activities of illegal miners.

The worrying trend, according to the index, which is also the result of the removal of vegetative cover, fertiliser use on farmlands indicated that the activities of illegal mining is shown in the waters by the presence of unusually high floating solids and high turbidity during the dry season.

Poor water quality

The Director of the Water Research Institute, Professor Osmund Ansah-Asare, made this known in Accra on Thursday when the media coalition against galamsey in collaboration with the International Association of Impact Assessment – Ghana (IAIA-Ghana) took their campaign to research scientists to explain the effects of the galamsey menace on the environment to the public.

The coalition which was led by its convener and the Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group Limited met with officials of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) who took the coalition through the consequences of the galamsey menace on the environment.

Prof. Ansah-Asare who gave a power point presentation with harrowing graphic photographs revealing the extent of damage caused the environment by the illegal miners expressed fear that Ghanaians either risked queuing for water or would have to import water in the not too distant future.  

Watch a video of the presentation below

Making a presentation on the state of water quality in the country, he disclosed that the highest areas of poor water quality were found in mining areas and areas of illegal gold mining noting that most of the waters in 2010 had decreased in quality except the River Butre, Tano, and the Barekese Reservoir.

Weal legal regime

He indicated that activities of small-scale miners especially the illegal ones degraded the land more than their counterpart in the large-scale sector due to weak legal regime.

The director added that that what was more disturbing was the fact that the Chinese blocked the water course, denied inhabitants source of drinking water and deteriorated the quality thereby reducing the quantity of water available to the people for drinking purposes.

“The government of Ghana has a task to improve water quality and also reduce treatment cost. Gold mining brings with it arsenic, mercury and sulphur contamination of water bodies, soil and even air,” Prof. Ansah-Asare added.

Among his recommendations were for steps to be taken to legalise galamsey for it to be monitored to ensure sustainability of the environment.

 

Director of the Water Research Institute, Professor Osmund Ansah-Asare

 

Need for concerted approach

Also to make a presentation on the topic “Institutional challenges propping illegal mining; Corrective measures towards sustainable mining” was the President of the IAIA-Ghana, Mr Yaw Amoyaw-Osei, who gave another perspective on the issue saying the complexities and sophistication of galamsey required a multi-pronged, sustained and concerted approach to tackle it.

He underscored the need to entrench sound environment governance arrangement in the mining sector and also address the fundamental risks of institutional failings. He further spoke about defining the types of illegal mining to find the appropriate customised and sustained solutions to them.

He identified some other forms of illegal mining that equally and significantly impacted the environment as transferring a mining license to mine other areas without authorisation, mining several contiguous small scale mining sites often deploying heavy duty equipment and mining with prospective license.

Institutional failures

“Institutional failings in mining sector environment governance has nurtured and propped galamsey into this monumental monster stirring us in the face,” Mr Amoyaw-Osei remarked and added that the setting aside Section 12(2) of Act 490 of the Mining law was an error in law and a sign of poor environmental practice of which the Environmental Protection Agency and the Minerals Commission were answerable.

He recommended among other things that the Minerals Commission identified areas of small scale mining and conduct strategic environmental assessment of any area of those mining areas and the community or district mining cooperatives should apply for the required mineral rights license and conduct the limited impact assessment.

Mr Ashigbey who co-chaired the event with the Deputy Director General of the CSIR, Prof. Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, said the coalition was ready to intensify its campaign to press home its case for Ghanaians to rise up to the effects of the galamsey menace on the environment.

While reiterating the objectives of the coalition to among others name, shame and possibly push for a jail term for offenders, Prof. Entsua-Mensah for her part added her voice to condemn the level of destruction caused the environment and urged Ghanaians to join in the campaign to bring the menace to an end to save the environment from further destruction.

The Media Coalition against Galamsey took its campaign a notch higher with the involvement of scientific researchers in the fight to bring to the attention of the public the effect of galamsey activities on the country’s water bodies.  

Source: Graphic Online

Maize is the most important cereal in terms of production and use in Ghana. The crop is produced in all the five agro-ecologies, characterised by significant climatic variations with frequent periods of drought and other stresses, resulting in crop losses.

In Ghana, the Council for Scientific Research (CSIR) Crops Research Institute (CRI) based in Kumasi has contributed immensely to maize improvement. The contributions of CSIR-CRI Maize Breeding Programme to Ghana’s development can be found in every household where a maize product of local origin is consumed.

The focus of maize breeding at the institute has been to develop stable and high-yielding maize varieties with the capacity to perform well in all the agro-ecologies in Ghana. 

It is estimated that over 80 per cent  of improved maize varieties grown in Ghana were developed and released by CSIR-CRI with support from its partners. Prior to the official release of maize varieties, maize cultivation in Ghana was dominated by unimproved land races whose yield potentials were less than one ton/ha but now hovers around 1.9tons/ha on farmers field (See graph). Other maize-breeding objectives are focused on enhancing nutritional benefits of the crop to consumers. 

Hybrid development

The development of hybrid varieties has been embraced by Maize Breeders at CSIR-CRI. Hybrid breeding is a tedious process that involves the identification of suitable parents which when crossed, will produce offsprings that are far more productive than their parents (Plate 1). Farmers will always have to buy fresh seeds every year/season for planting if they want sustained yields, a situation most Ghanaian farmers have not woken up to! 

Drought resistance/tolerance

Drought constitutes a major threat to maize productivity worldwide. With climate change and irregular rainfall, the need for maize varieties with resistance/tolerance to drought is needed. In collaboration with international partners, CSIR-CRI has developed and released commercial varieties that are drought resistant.

Nutritional improvement

CSIR-CRI was the first research institute/organisation in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa to breed for quality protein maize (QPM) varieties rich in lysine and tryptophan. The famous ‘Obatanpa’ maize variety released in 1992 by CSIR-CRI is currently grown under various names in about 20 African countries and continues to stand tall both in terms of yield and nutritional quality. One estimate showed that over 80 million US dollars have been saved to the country upon the development of QPM varieties. Other nutritionally superior varieties rich in beta carotene and high yielding have been released by CSIR-CRI. Beta carotene rich maize are good for children, pregnant women and poultry. 

Agronomic packages

Important agronomic packages for improved productivity have been developed by the Institute. These range from good land preparation, timely planting, proper planting, fertiliser application, weed management, timely harvesting to proper storage of all the released varieties which are available. 

Challenges and the way forward

The major challenge to maize improvement efforts have been inadequate funding. According to a report prepared by Ghana’s Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), Ghana has a shortfall in maize production of about nine per cent to 15 per cent of national requirements and this is projected to increase. Adequate funding for the development of new varieties is needed to close this gap.

Low adoption of hybrid varieties is another challenge. Rapid adoption of hybrid maize varieties has the potential to triple farmer yields from the current 1.9 tons/ha to over 4.5 tons/ha or even higher in farmers’ fields. 

The challenges of poor seed supply systems in the country cannot be over-emphasised. Perhaps, with the promulgation of the Plant Breeders Bill, maize breeders can liaise with emerging private seed companies to help disseminate newly released hybrid varieties for rapid adoption. 

Other important areas that need research attention are breeding for improved popcorn and sweet corn varieties for the Ghanaian market. Farmers can earn decent incomes from the cultivation of these varieties. However, serious efforts are underway to attract funding from potential donors to support the breeding of these types of maize in the country.

The challenge posed by pests and diseases is not completely won as new and potent pathogens and pests keep emerging. The recent outbreak of army worms in some parts of the country is a case in point which had a toll on maize productivity in 2016. To overcome these challenges requires constant monitoring and breeding interventions to curtail any catastrophic consequences. 

We conclude by requesting the support of the Ghana government, donor agencies and organisations interested in food security to support maize improvement research, particularly at CSIR-CRI, to develop new higher yielding and preferred varieties for the diversified users.

The article was written by 

Allen Oppong, Manfred B. Ewool, Priscilla Ribeiro, K. Obeng-Antwi and Stella A. Ennin

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