By: Fred Yaw Sarpong
The Convention People’s Party (CPP) Presidential candidate for 2012 Presidential Election, Dr. Abu Sakara has add his voice to those calling for National Debate on genetically modified (GM) crops, in order to help address some of the challenges associated with the crops, if there is any.
According to Dr. Sakara, national debate will clearly give an informed decision about GM crops, as far as anti GM and those for are concern.
Dr. Sakara said in an interview after a day lecture on GM crops held in Accra last week. The lecture was organized by Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) and Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
‘I think clearly this is a topic which has now come to the public domain, because it has been in the news for sometimes,’ he added.
Dr. Sakara stated that his comment on GM crops will be from the point of scientists view, so that there will be much concern about the scientifically prove of GM crops because the scientists can give the Ghanaians the clear facts on GM crops.
‘So I am not entering it yet, from a preconceive position, whether am for or being against. Am entering it from a position of what is provable,’ said Dr. Sakara.
He stated that ‘we all are aware of what the benefits of GM crops are and like all other things, there are some downsize associated with it too. If anybody introduces something to you and has no downsized, you should be very careful.’
Dr. Sakara asked that within the contest of our local situation, how are Ghanaians been able to explore the positive of GM crops and minimize the negative, barely in mind that the negative must be provable and it must be scientific base. ‘Not simple an allegation of something that you make up,’ he added.
Some experts, especially those fighting for GM crops have argued that, clearly there are some negative images on GM crops that are not provable and therefore anybody who claims that they have the facts for it, should be able to come out in public to present those facts.
‘But what concerns me also is our ability to weigh situation and decide what is in our best interest first. I shouldn’t be for or against GMO because somebody from outside is telling me to be for it or against it. I should be able to be for or against it with my own understanding. If we weigh both sizes, we don’t need to be paid before speaking against or for GM crops. We need to use our common sense to determine what is good or bad,’ he emphasized.
The 2012 CPP Presidential candidate believes that clearly there are significant advantages, which outweigh the disadvantages.
However, he indicated that the disadvantages can be manage within the context of a Bio-regulation framework, that ensure that (1) it is handling properly, (2) it is not misused, and (3) that the interest of our farmers and our society are taken care off, so that Ghanaians are not disadvantaged.
He stressed that there will be danger associated with it as a result of tendency to misuse it and the important thing is what regulation can we put in place to ensure that we do not misuse it in a negative way?
He called on the scientists to get out there and put the issue out for people to make their minds up. ‘We should not allow people who know less something than those (scientists) seek the public domain and provide misinformation.
He urged the scientists in the country to put their truth out there for the public to make their decision; especially at a point whereby they believe (scientists) they are saying the truth. ‘Put the truth out there and defends it,’ he added.
‘But don’t sit back, because if you sit back, those people who misinformed or do not have the right information but are motivated by other factors will get it into the public domain, and I believe that is a very dangerous situation and it is something that we should put attention on,’ Dr. Sakara reiterated.
He was wondering where those who are either anti or for GM crops are getting their funding from. ‘What are their motivations? Are they just jumping on political bag wagon, for their own fame or do they have monetary gain from it whether they are for or against? And if you are saying something about GM crops, do you have the evidence to support it? These are issues we expect our experts to also take into considerations,’ Dr. Sakara stressed.
He called for collective opinions together and educates ourselves and also has a thorough interaction on the subject. ‘This is not a matter of a confrontation. It is more of education rather than confrontation. Education on this subject is very important, so that it will bring both anti and those for GM crops together to exchange ideas.’
Given some challenges associated with genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), Professor Walter Alhassan, a member of National Biosafety Committee (NBC) said the way people communicate about GMO gives a bad name for it. However, he explained that the threat people sees about GMO is the same threat associated with other conversional crops.
‘The fact that they are GMO’s does not make it any really different in terms of whether it is toxic or allergic or whatever,’ Prof. Alhassan stated.
He explained that ‘we have allergic and toxic in normal crops, adding that if one does not handling cassava properly it could be toxic and that does not have anything to do with GMO.
Other challenges he mentioned as related to GMOs are the fact that we need to create an enabling environment for one to use anything, especially in areas of technology, marketing, infrastructure, extension support services, continues training of farmers, and continues awareness creation on issues of Biotechnology.
He believes this is not one off thing, which one workshop or an event can address. ‘We need continues creating awareness about issues of biotechnology and about issue of GMO and also the fact is we need to understand that GM is just a tool, and biotechnology is not a GM, adding that there are a lot that associated with biotechnology.