Ghana’s food security will get a big boost if the country’s first genetically modified crop gets government approval for release into the environment, the scientist leading the project has said.
The National Biosafety Authority of the Department of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation announced in February that it had received a request from the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for the authorization of release into the environment of a Variety of cowpea or GM beans.
The gazette notification announcing the process says that if approved, the application will allow the “release of genetically modified pod borer resistant (PBR) cowpea in Ghana.”
The gazette quotes the application to the Biosafety Authority as saying that farmers and consumers will benefit from PBR cowpea due to higher yields, lower input costs and greater on-farm safety due to the reduction in pesticide use and reduction in pesticide residues on beans. .
The authority says it is reviewing the request with relevant regulatory agencies and independent experts. A decision is expected in or around August 2022.
Dr Jerry Nboyine, who is the lead researcher in charge of the GM cowpea project, said the variety will help farmers reduce the amount of spray they use on cowpea farms each season by more than eight times to around twice.
“Cowpea or beans. Your ‘yo ke gari’ popularly called red-red or gari and the beans are made from it. Most of us are delighted to see it in our dishes. But we don’t know the hustle and bustle of the farmers to produce it.
“From planting to harvest, even in storage, even in storage, this particular crop is pest-loving…” he explained.
“What scientists were able to do with the help of biotech tools was identify a particular gene responsible for resistance and it was introduced into crops.
“Cowpea is one of them… It has helped make cowpea resistant to maruca pests,” he added.
The application for environmental release follows nearly 10 years of research.
The Director General of the National Biosafety Authority, Eric Okoree, says the authority is well placed to be able to properly review GM cowpea and ensure it benefits Ghanaians.
“The authority was created in 2011 and set up in 2015. Upon its creation, the then biosafety committee gave two approvals for GM cowpea and GM rice. And the permits were given to the CSIR. The search is ongoing and the authority is monitoring it,” he said.
“Now Ghana has put in place a law to regulate GMOs. An authority has been put in place. And our goal is to ensure health and environmental safety. And when that is done, all the benefits of GMOs will be realized,” Mr. Okoree added.