biotechnology crucial to the pursuit of global food security

Biotech crops are essential but are not a panacea and adherence to good farming practices such as rotations and resistance management, are a must for biotech crops as they are for conventional crops.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) 2013 report said Monday.

The report said a record 175.2 million hectares of biotech crops were grown globally in 2013, at an annual growth rate of 3%, up 5 million from 170 million hectares in 2012.

“This year, 2013, was the 18th year of commercialization, 1996-2013, when growth continued after a remarkable 17 consecutive years of increases; notably 12 of the 17 years were double-digit growth rates”.

“The global hectarage of biotech crops have increased more than 100-fold from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to over 175 million hectares in 2013 making biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent history”.

This adoption rate speaks for itself in terms of its resilience and the benefits it delivers to farmers and consumers.

Millions of risk-averse farmers, both large and small, world-wide, have determined that the returns from planting biotech crops are high, hence repeat planting is virtually 100% which is the acid-test applied by farmers for judging the performance of any technology.

Speaking at the launch 2013 Global Status Report on Commercialized Biotechnology and Genetically Modified (GM) Crops in Accra, Professor Walter Alhassan, Senior Advisor for Programme on Biosafety Systems (PBS, he said no single approach could feed the projected world’s population of nine billion by 2050.

The launch, which was the eighth in the series, promotes awareness creation on biotechnology, progress made and challenges to be addressed, to promote the use of the technology to address global agriculture needs.

Biotechnology is the use of living organisms to produce a product or service such as tools of tissue culture, molecular characterization for identification purposes in plant breeding, diagnostics, fermentation and genetic engineering.

Prof Alhassan explained that biotechnology was crucial to the pursuit of global food security since conventional crop improvement alone cannot guarantee human nutritional needs.

He said though biotechnology was not the panacea to the world’s food problem, it would help improve and address food security.

He noted that lack of appropriate science-based and cost, as well as time effective regulatory systems continued to be the major constraint to adoption and called for a responsible, rigorous but not onerous, regulation for small and poor developing countries.

“For Technological sustainability, good stewardship is a must. We cannot feed the world of tomorrow with yester-years technologies”, he said.

National Secretary of Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen (GNAFF) Mr John Dziwornu said GNAFF supports the introduction of genetically modified (GM) food in the country.

“GNAFF is committed to promoting and embracing any proven technology that is beneficial to agriculture, especially smallholder farmers and fishers in Ghana, and this includes biotechnology (Bt),”

“Our markets are already flooded to the disadvantage of our farmers with agricultural products from other countries,” he said, adding that most of those countries had already adopted biotechnology and thus had already introduced Bt foods into Ghana.”

Mr Charles Annan, CEO of KOOCONSULT LTD, said farming is a lucrative venture but unfortunately farmers in developing countries are the poorest due to emotional and fear attached to technologies that would increase their yields and make farming profitable.

He said the laws of the Ghana seed companies have open the flood gates for people to produce all kinds of seeds for farmers and noted that GNAFF would open it own seed company to provide seeds for its members.

“GNAFF will ensure that the processes for adopting such technologies are safe and sustainable for the country. Thus, we are in support of the passing of the Biosafety Act 5831 of 2011 and the Breeders Bill”.

Dr Abdulai B. Salifu, Director General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) noted that CSIR welcomes contrary view on biotech and added that those who are not scientist or experts should not pretend to be what they are not.

The technology he said would boost food supply production and noted it was easier to sell fear than counteract it and called for concerted effort t allay fears on the dangers of GMOs.

“Those of us publicly charged with the research and development needs of this country have no intention of leading our country into difficulties, Dr Salifu said. GNA

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