The Ghana Chapter of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) has said claims by Indian agro-ecologist, Dr Vandana Shiva that consuming Genetically Modified Foods was poisonous and therefore harmful to humans was totally false.
“GMOs are not toxins as Dr Shiva believes as a philosopher and that knowledge that is not shared is knowledge that is not gained”, OFAB said.
OFAB said some foods caused allergies and GM foods might also not be exempted but that did not make it poisonous or harmful, Dr. Margaret Attipoe, Focal Person of OFAB Ghana, told a press conference in Accra.
The press conference was in reaction to a forum organised by Food Sovereignty Ghana which degenerated into a brawl between Dr Margaret Ottah Attipoe who is also a Deputy Director of the Food Research Institute of Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research and the organisers.
The forum was organised by Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa in collaboration with Food Sovereignty Ghana and sought to educate Ghanaians on the need to prevent the promotion of genetically modified (GM) foods in Ghana.
It was addressed by Dr Vandana Shiva, Founder of the Research Foundation for Science and Ecology, one of the world’s foremost environmentalist and anti-genetically modified foods (GMOs) activist.
At the forum, Dr Attipoe was accused of spreading false information about the organisation and also branding them as agents receiving funding from certain agencies outside the country to prevent the promotion of GM foods.
Dr Attipoe, a proponent of GM foods, did not take kindly to the remarks and in a very sharp rebuttal explained that the debate should not be turned into personal attacks but rather must deal with the issues.
Dr Shiva appealed to Ghanaians to stand up against the introduction of GM foods into the country’s food chain adding that accepting GM foods would amount to “seed colonisation and seed slavery.”
However Dr. Margaret Attipoe dismissed the claims as untrue, saying: “GMOs are not toxins or toxic as Shiva believes.” and that the campaign against GM Foods and the rejection of the Plant Breeders Bill which was currently before Parliament was unfortunate.
Dr. Attipoe said the plant breeders’ bill was simply to provide royalties and motivate breeders, protect seeds and fetch the much needed foreign exchange revenues for country.
She questioned the scientific background of Dr Vandana Shiva who holds a Master’s Degree and a PhD in Quantum Physics and another Master’s Degree in Philosophy and asked her to come up with documented scientific evidence to back her claims.
Dr Attipoe said Dr Shiva’s claim that seeding plants would result in sterility and cause global catastrophe which would wipe out humans was an illogical absurdity saying “Can sterile plants which cannot reproduce be able to spread genes”
She said OFAB welcomes anyone to their forum and engages in discussions in sharing knowledge about GMOs based on scientific procedures and documented evidence, adding that the plant breeder’s bill had nothing to do with GMOs.
Professor Walter Alhassan, a member of OFAB Ghana, said no nation could live on only one technology to solve its challenges of agriculture and that a mixture of technology like organic farming, modern agriculture practices involving mechanization, use of pesticides and agro-processing, crop rotation, integrated pest management, biotechnology with or without GM was needed.
He said farming had its own problems from large scale withdrawal of vegetable periodically in Europe and the USA due to salmonella outbreaks in human from consuming vegetables contaminated with faecal materials that resulted in deaths.
“We do not stop organic farming as a result of these episodes but we need more care in the future. Due to increasing populations and finite land resources, indigenous farming practices like shifting cultivation are no longer effective due to the shortened fallow period. Every technology must be handled with care”.
Dr Yaa Difie, an OFAB member said farmers must be allowed to choose the technology they want, adding “Let us preach the truth and not personal opinions”.
Professor Josephine Nketiah, also an OFAB member, said risks would always be around but proper management of it was crucial and explained that when a product is good for over 99 percent of the population one cannot sacrifice it for the one percent who may have problems with it.
“Let allow our scientist to work, discuss and share ideas. This should not be a fight” she added. GNA