The leadership of Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) of TUC, Centre for Indigenous Knowledge And Organisational Development (CIKOD) and Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) on Friday held at a press conference during which they said the introduction of GMOs will not only deprive Ghana of its food sovereignty but also has the tenacity to wipe out its seeds.
Read full statement below:
We have invited you here this morning to share with you our views on developments relating to agricultural production and national development. We have been told time and again that agriculture is the backbone of Ghana’s economy. This means that whatever happens in or to agriculture has wide ramification to the entire economy and all of us. It is for this reason that the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), General Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU) of TUC, Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD) and Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), wish to share with you our views on GMO and its implications on the economy. As you may be aware, we have been at the forefront and mounted a relentless campaign against the introduction of GMO in Ghana, especially in agriculture.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, on Wednesday 13th March, 2019, at a bi-annual meeting with senior officials of the World Food Programme (WFP) from West African Countries in Accra, the Minister for Food and Agriculture (MoFA) stated that “Ghana does not need genetically modified organism (GMO) to ensure food sufficiency and security, as the knowledge it has accumulated in the discovery of improved seeds can boost food production.” We are happy that, the Minister has come to this realization, which indeed has been our long held view that GMO is not one of the solutions to Ghana’s agricultural problems. We therefore use this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the Minister for coming to this position and making a public pronouncement that Ghana can do without GMO. We encourage him to hold on to this position as Ghanaian farmers, consumers and CSOs are all in support of his position.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we believe and rightfully so that agriculture is the key to unlock the economic potentials of the nation and wean itself from the clutches of donor dependency. And this is in line with President’s vision of “Ghana Beyond Aid”.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, aside the well-known challenges facing agriculture at production, postharvest and marketing levels, our local seed producers and farmers are plagued with numerous constraints. For instance, the research institutions such as Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), Crop Research Institute (CRI), Grains Development and Legumes Board and others are poorly resourced to provide the foundation seeds. The agricultural sector is further challenged with limited irrigation facilities, poor transportation or road network, inadequate storage facilities and difficulty in access to credit. These are the critical and real challenges facing agriculture and farmers, and obviously GMO is not the solution and cannot be part of the solution at this stage of our agricultural development.
The press, we therefore, consider the call for the introduction of GMOs to salvage the local seed industry as a ploy and a grand strategy by multi-national seed companies and their Ghanaian agents to control seed production and rip off the patent right of a single seed purchased by farmers. Accepting GMOs in Ghana is not only contrary to the developmental dreams of Ghana as envisioned by our President, but will further worsen the poverty level of smallholder farmers who will have to buy expensive seeds every year; kill our infant seed industry and take the progress chalked in the agriculture sector steps back.
The introduction of GMOs in Ghana will not only deprive the country of its food sovereignty, but also has the tendency to wipe out the country’s seeds.
Our farmers have a vast amount of ecological knowledge of traditional farming practices which has been applied in their development of good seed varieties, which are able to deal with the multiple challenges of farming. Let us rather ensure that, we save our indigenous seeds that we inherited. We should be able to trace our seeds.
PFAG, GAWU, CIKOD and FSG call on Ghana to learn lessons from the failure of BT- Cotton in Burkina Faso in 2018 just last year, where they had to rely on Togo for conventional Cotton seeds to save their cotton industry from total collapse.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we warn that there is still intense debate among scientists on health implications of GMOs and majority of scientists caution nations to be conscious of how they handle GMOs. We should be drawing lessons from the effect of Monsanto’s Glyphosate on farmers. This dangerous chemical for years was causing cancer and killing many farmers, yet the company that is leading GMOs claimed at the time that the chemical was safe to use until recently, when a school gardener who is dying of terminal cancer won a law suit against the company.
As we stand as a nation, Ghana has no capacity and resource persons or adequate resources in place to monitor research, development activities and trends of GMOs, conduct risk assessments and examine the full health, environmental and socio-economic implications of genetic engineering and GMOs in Ghana.
In addition, producing GMOs in Ghana will have dire consequences on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that the has country signed with the European Union (EU) as GMOs are banned from entry into the European Market. Recently, 19 out of the 28 member-states of the European Union have voted to either partially or fully ban GMOs. These countries include France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Poland, Denmark, Malta, Slovenia, Italy and Croatia have chosen a total ban. Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium has opted out, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The question we are not getting an answer to is, “why are few individuals in Ghana trying hard to create the impression that, GMOs is that good, when the inventors themselves are now opting out of it”?
You all need to join the Minister for Agriculture, Hon. Dr. Owusu Afiriyie Akoto, PFAG and GAWU to closely monitor the activities of these pro-GMO groups in Ghana to understand their real motive before they mislead the entire nation.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, the assertion that “GMO is a crucial tool to revolutionize Ghana’s agriculture sector” is the clearest manifestation of some of our scientists’ lack of appreciation of the happenings in the Ghanaian agricultural sector.
In fact, we need government to find pragmatic solutions to the major constraints facing Ghanaian farmers today, which has to do with how to produce all year round. This is because we have erratic rainfall in recent times. Rains that used to fall between 6 to 7 months in a season, especially in northern Ghana, has now reduced to only 3 to 4 months and followed by drought, high temperatures and on some occasions, floods. Ladies and gentlemen of the media, as you may be aware, in recent years, between June to September, the Bagre dam in Burkina Faso was spilled and caused a lot of damage to farms and other economic activities. Will the adoption of GMOs address these problems? The answer is NO!
In addition, we are embattled with poor feeder roads, high postharvest losses and limited extension staff. Does it make sense to invest so much in production just to have over 30% to 50% going waste or loss due to lack of harvesters, storage facilities, processing and poor transportation? The solution to this, obviously, is not GMOs. We also call on our scientists to rather find solutions to address these problems and not spend tax payer’s money and resources to promote technology that is developed by foreigners to control our seed system and impoverish smallholder farmers. We are urging organizations and individuals paid by the tax payer, who are preaching for the adoption of genetically modified organisms to tell “Ghanaians the truth behind the mask”.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, local seed producers are constrained with the production of enough improved seeds for Ghanaian farmers. These constraints include high cost of foundation seeds, lack of irrigation facilities, lack of storage facilities, high cost of inputs and difficulty in accessing credit at affordable interest rates. These constraints make it difficult for seed growers to increase their business of supplying enough improved seeds to farmers. Bringing GMOs will only put them out of business and increase the unemployment situation as local seed growers lack the capacity to grow laboratory seeds in Ghana.
We therefore call on His Excellency,
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the President of the Republic of Ghana, to ensure that, Ghana does not become an “economic football” for selfish foreign seed companies whose only interest is profit.
PFAG and GAWU are grateful to smallholder farmers for helping save our seeds for food security and for joining the fight against GMO.
Long live Ghana,
Long live all those who genuinely fight for the people of Ghana.