The Senior Research Scientist at the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Jerry Nboyine has revealed that efforts are underway to ensure approval for Ghana’s first GMO crop, the pod borer resistant (PBR) cowpea.
A four-day workshop themed, ‘Speaking Science Ghana’, brought together senior and junior scientists from academic institutions and research organizations from throughout the country for training on best practices in science communication.
The GM cowpea was created to withstand the deadly pod borer, which may reduce crop yields by up to 100 per cent on farms. “Farmers can achieve the potential yields of most commercially released cowpea types, which is roughly 2 tonnes per hectare, with PBR Cowpea.” He explained that this represents a four-fold increase in yield over current yields.
He said approval of the variety will help ensure “protection of our environment from hazardous insecticides, protection of cowpea farmers from pesticide poisoning, and protection of consumers from pesticide poisoning.”
“Ghana can achieve food sufficiency in the cowpea production sector by using GM cowpea.” PBR Cowpea has been commercialized in Nigeria, and grains will be sent unofficially to Ghana soon. Our market women will buy cowpea from Nigeria, and there’s no assurance that some PBR Cowpea will make it into Ghana,” he noted.
Ghana is also creating genetically modified rice, according to Dr. Maxwell Darko Asante, Deputy Director of the CSIR’s Crop Research Institute (NEWEST rice).
He said the GM rice being developed uses nitrogen efficiently, uses water efficiently, and has salt tolerance.
“The lead Nitrogen – Use Efficient lines have a yield advantage of 15-30% compared to the non-GM version on nitrogen-deficient soils,” he explained.
He said if this crop gets adopted, resource-poor farmers who cannot afford the recommended levels of fertilizer can still have good yields.
This will improve livelihoods, mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as help ensure marginal areas which cannot support rice production, could be cultivated.
Research scientist at BNARI Dr Elaine Azu who participated in the science communication training said it has equipped her with the appropriate tools to communicate about science and technology’s role in agricultural production.
“Now I’m ready to go… It’s past time for the general people to learn more about what scientists perform in the lab. Step out, my fellow scientists, and show how science can help Ghana progress,” she advised.
Sandra Nsoh, a teaching assistant at the University for Development Studies’ Department of Biotechnology, told the press that the workshop had taught her a lot.
“I’m a natural public speaker, but this training has honed my communication abilities.” One speaker suggested that the next generation of scientists engage in social media. She declared, “I plan to wake up and speak more about science.”