At the inauguration of the 13-member board of Directors of the NBA in Accra on Monday, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation said since GMOs were good technological systems that help improve crop and plant varieties and ensuring food security, it was proper that the public was well engaged to help them better understand and accept biotechnology.
He therefore 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 its fast advancement globally.
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 Research 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 sees great potential in modern biotechnology and thus 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, was 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.
He therefore, tasked the NBA to take immediate steps to work with the Finance Ministry to finalise 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.
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 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 maximises its potential benefits and minimises the likely risk to the environment and human health. The Board would also scrutinize the handling of requests for approval of application for “Contained or Confined Use involving GMOs, Introduction into the environment, Import or Place in the Market, Exports and GMOs in transit.
Other members of the NBA Board include, Mr Eric Amaning Okoree, Chief Executive Officer of the NBA, Ms Delese Mimi Darko, Chief Executive Officer of Food and Drugs Authority, Dr Yaa Difie Osei, Chairperson of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) 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.