Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, has urged the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) Board, to educate the public on biotechnology and biosafety issues.
This he said will help the public understand and embrace biotechnology as a better alternative to socio-economic advancement.
He said such public education on biotechnology, especially on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), was needed to be carried out by the Board “to help correct the wrong perception created in the minds of the public regarding the technology.“Biotechnology is so important and we can’t develop without it”, the Minister noted, adding that countries like China in 1986 embraced biotechnology and did extensive research in various biotechnology systems which resulted in it fast advancement globally.
Speaking at the inauguration of the 13-member board of Directors of the NBA in Accra on Monday, Prof Frimpong-Boateng said since GMOs were good technological systems that help improve crop and plant varieties and ensure food security, it is proper that the public is well engaged to help them better understand and accept biotechnology.
He said GMOs were a branch of biotechnological systems that have been adopted by many countries including China to help develop plants and crops that were highly resistance to diseases and pests, thereby ensuring higher yields.
The new board, which has a three-year mandate, is chaired by Professor Charles Antwi-Boasiako, a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
The Board is expected to make decisions on biosafety applications for safe development, transfer, handling and use of GMOs in Ghana, and address socio-economic issues related to biotechnology and biosafety.
It is also mandated to promote public awareness, participation and education, while establishing committees, including Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBCs) and set procedures for the operations of such committee, among other functions.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng explained that, genetically modified foods and products were being consumed everyday all over the world, and therefore, Ghanaians have to embrace GMOs as a new way of technological advancement that had come to stay to help the world cope with weather changes.
He said the Crop Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) continues to research and develop new plant and crops varieties like yams, maize, cassava and potatoes that were more resistant to the changing weather patterns, and gave the assurance that these were very safe for consumption.
He said Government on it parts initiated the biosafety system some 19 years ago for the country to have an appropriate and transparent decision-making mechanism for modern biotechnology for the benefit of the people and the environment.
The Biosafety Act, subsequently passed in 2011 in line with Ghana’s obligation under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, legalizes Biosafety, to help the country make decisions on modern biotechnology, based on risk assessment and other considerations.
The Act also legally established the NBA.
The Minister noted that, government recognizes the potential adverse effects the technology could have on the environment and health, and therefore, had adopted Biosafety as a decision making mechanism for the management of the Technology.
He said the government, however, sees great potential in modern biotechnology and had therefore cited it in the National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy as one of the precision technologies to be adopted to enhance the socio-economic development of the country.
He therefore, tasked the NBA to take immediate steps to work with the Finance Ministry to finalize the free regime for biosafety applications and also manage the GMO detection laboratories, which was about to be commissioned to generate income for the NBA and the government.
Prof Antwi-Boasiako on behalf of the board, thanked the President for the confidence reposed in the members, and gave the assurance that the Board would work tirelessly to make it relevant in the rapidly-changing global environment of science and technology.
He said the Board would also work to promote environmentally-sound application of biotechnology that maximizes its potential benefits and minimizes the likely risk to the environment and human health.
The Board would scrutinize the handling of requests for approval of application for “Contained or confined Activity use involving GMOs, Introduction into environment, import or place in the market, exports and the GMOs in transit.
Other members of the NBA Board include, Eric Amaning Okoree, Chief Executive Officer of NBA, Ms Delese Mimi Darko, Chief Executive Officer of Food and Drugs Authority, Dr Yaa Difie Osei, Chairperson of the Technical Advisory Committee of MESTI, Ms Adelaide Asantewaa Asante of MESTI, and Mr Emmanuel Kojo Gyimah, of the Association of Ghana Industries.
Others are; Lawyer Yaw D. Oppong, a legal Practitioner, Prof Victoria Pearl Dzogbefia, an Academician, Dr Francis Boateng Agyenim of the CSIR, Dr Anastasia Michaelina Yirenkyi of the Ministry of Health, and Mr Anthony Asewa Mensah of the Ghana Revenue Authority.
The rest are Dr King-David Amoah, an NGO activist and Dr Samuel Asiedu Okantah, an academician.