26 February 2009. Accra, Ghana. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) conducted its annual press briefing this year at the FARA Secretariat to formally launch its 2008 Biotech Brief: Global Stutus of Commericalised Biotech/BM Crops. The briefing highlighted the current global status of the commercialization of biotech crops and Genetically Modified crops.
Professor Walter Alhassan, a Consultant for African Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy Platform and a member of the FARA Secretariat, discussed the status of Biotechnology and Biosafety in Africa. He indicated that Mali, Togo, Malawi, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Cameroon had their legislations in place but were yet to commercialise their production. Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Mozambique have legal frameworks but were yet to commence field trials with GM crops. He noted that with the current low levels of agricultural productivity, there was the likelihood that Africa would not meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of poor and hungry by 2015.
Prof. Alhassan also focused on the situation in Ghana where field trials will soon begin with Genetically Modified crops, which, when successful, will help enhance agricultural modernization and productivity. This follows the coming into force of a legislative instrument in May 2008 allowing research into GM crops pending the passage of the Biosafety Bill. A secretariat is to be set up to ensure the smooth administrative implementation of the field trials.
The ISAAA is a not-for-profit organization that delivers the benefits of new agricultural biotechnologies to the poor in developing countries. It aims to share these powerful technologies to those who stand to benefit from them and at the same time establish an enabling environment for their safe use.
ISAAA Brief 39-2008 identifies challenges in the agriculture sector such as low technological deployment, climate change problems, market constraints, low levels of investment in agriculture, conflicts and farming systems. "Biotechnology is one of the tools that can make a meaningful contribution to the challenges facing the continent. Therefore it would be wise for us to embrace this idea to meet the challenges." For the first time, the accumulated area of biotech crops for the period 1996-2008 exceeded two million hectares
References:"Ghana to undertake field trials on GM crops," Ghanaweb.com, February 27, 2009