The Ghana Institute of Horticulturists of UDS organized a debate on 26, November, 2019 on the topic, Embracing GMO; the way forward.
The debate brought students from the department of Horticulture, the department of Biotechnology as well as some students from Tamale Senior High School with the aim of creating awareness of the importance of GMOs and GM crops to argue out the misconceptions surrounding the engineering and identify the areas of interest to the public that need research and education. The targeted group were students especially final year horticultural students who will soon graduate and join the industry and also may serve as extensionist wherever they may go.
The event was graced by high profile personalities like Dr. Osman Adamu Dufaila and Professor Abdul-Halim Abubakari who are both senior members of the university.
The main speaker for the motion was Miss Alhassan Adamu and Supported by Miss Paulina Ayambilla and the main Speaker against the motion was Mr. Acheampong Bismarck with the Support of Miss Hamdala Hamid.
Speakers for the motion proved without doubts the importance and the need to embrace GMOs and GM foods. They supported their claim with evidence from documents to documentaries to clear the dust on the understanding of audience. Miss Alhassan Adamu mentioned the sad news where “Golden rice” a genetically modified rice has been banned in some countries though the nutrition benefits are enormous. Both speakers for the motion convincingly elaborated the health benefits and the safety of GM (crops) foods. They refuted claims by their opponent about allergies and bacteria resistance and the distraction of natural order and biodiversity. The argued that, genetic modification is not new to human civilization, instead the conventionally selection methods take longer time and slow to meet the global demand of the human population which the new techniques offer.
Specimen of featherless chicken and hairless dogs human ear growing mice were displayed, golden rice, straw berry, tomato engineered to cure cancers were all part of the audio visuals displayed.
Speakers against the motion pointed to some common fears in the public and cultural values that might not accept the GMOs. Religious believes were mentioned as some of the reasons Ghana cannot embrace GMOs. Their concerns were also about the safety of the GMOs and how some multi-millionaires will take advantage and control the local seed market especially and enjoy monopoly since they would be the ones produce the seeds. They cautioned that, though Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Sudan have embraced GM crops, Ghana must not be in a rush to embrace something the citizenry are not ready for therefore more research is needed to assess the safety of GM products.
The special speakers who graced the occasion could not hide their excitement on the knowledge the debaters from both sides were exhibiting. Dr Osman in his presentation elaborated on the fears and misconception of Ghanaians but blamed it on some greedy individuals with politico religious power home and in diaspora. His presentation explained the basic techniques used in modifying these organisms and distinguished GMOs from GM crops and or food. He buttressed on most points of the speakers for the motion though he recognized the fact that the fears of the public must be taken and worked on. On safety, he undoubtedly quashed the concern of the speakers against the motion and schooled his audience on the how GMOs finally reach the market. He made it known that, the Ghana Biosafety Act 831, 2011 has given legal works on the introduction of GM products of which the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of Savannah Research Institute is working on some cowpea variety.
Professor Abdul-Halim’ presentation was not any different from Dr. Osman’ except the case of producing sterile seeds where farmers would have to buy season after season from the seed producing companies suggesting that, that must be looked at.
Both guest speakers called on their audience to rise to the call and not sit on the fence. These they said, we need to work to establish structures and systems, be efficient communicators and generational thinkers, stand for Truth and not Trend.
Reporter: Joseph Nzeh (0246903245)