National Biosafety Authority works to ensure safety of GMOs

The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) has given the assurance that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) products that are consumed in the country are safe for human health and on the environment.

“We are making sure that the public get only biotech products that are beneficial”, Mr Eric Okoree, Chief Executive Officer of NBA said.

Pro-GMOs activists have augured that studies carried out so far had proven that there is no risk associated with the consumption of the current 10 GMOs products being consumed in the world.

However, Anti-GMOs campaigners are debating that GMOs are not too safe for consumption and would also rob indigenous farmers the right to their original conventional planting seeds.

Speaking at a biosafety training programme in Accra on Monday, Mr Okoree said the Biosafety Act 2011 (Act 831) had been designed by the State to ensure an adequate level of protection in the field of safe development transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms from biotechnology that may have adverse effect on health and environment.

He said the Act also ensures the establishment of a transparent and predictable progress to review and make decision on genetically modified organisms and related matters.

The training forms parts of a series of programmes designed for editors and journalists to increase their understanding of biotechnology, Ghana’s biosafety regulatory system, and the implications for food security and economic growth.

The NBA and the Programme for Biosafety System (PBS) with the support from the U.S. Embassy are organising the training programme for media personnel in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale.

The training was also designed to engage editors and field journalists to provide science-based information from local and regional experts on agricultural biotechnology and the implications for Ghana’s food security.

The programme, among others was to provide an overview of biotechnology, the impact it could have on food security, and the biosafety framework within Ghana.

Mr Okoree noted that the NBA had currently granted permits to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct research on produce like the Bt. Cowpea and Bt Cotton, being undertaken by Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) in Tamale, as well as the NEWEST Rice, the High Protein Sweet Potato, and the Bt+ Ht Cotton being carried out by the Crop Research Institute (CRI) in Kumasi.

He said the National Biosafety Committee under the NBA, would continue to perform it role as the executive body for the overall monitoring, risk management and commercial release of the regulated materials.

He said the monitoring and inspection functions shall also be performed by the regulatory agencies like the Food and Drugs Authority and the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services (PPRSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.

Mr Okoree said the NBA had also put up programmes to engage the public through education and awareness, through the issuance of public participation and regulatory guidelines and strategies on public engagement.

The Authority, as part of its mandate was to also to promote awareness, participation and education of the public and those conducting activities concerning biosafety matters through the publication and dissemination of Regulations and the Guidelines as well as guidance documents and any other material aimed at improving understanding of biosafety and related authorization and notification requirements.

Dr Vivian Oduro, Senior Research Scientist at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission explained that GMOs were a transformation of conventional methods of breeding, involving hybridization of plant cell and tissue culture through genetic engineering which had been proven to be safe for consumption and use.

She said these genetic modifications were ensuring that plant and food products were highly resistant to pest, disease and changes in weather patterns, especially in the face of climate change impact.

Dr Oduro noted that most GMO foods were highly regulated by world regulatory bodies to ensure that they are safe for consumption.

She, therefore urged Ghana to embrace GMOs since they were being produced to address the issues of food security with high yielding produce. GNA

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