President Nana Akufo-Addo’s nominee as the next Minister of Food and Agriculture is set to face a challenge as an activist group plans to block his nomination.
Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto was nominated as the Minister of Agriculture on Tuesday January 10. However, Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), a group that has been on the forefront of campaigning against the advancement of the genetical engineering of food in Ghana, have expressed their displeasure at his nomination.
the Communications Director of FSG, Edwin Kweku Baffour Andoh, said the nomination of Dr Afriyie would be challenged in Parliament by the group because of previous comments and actions that appear to be in support of the advancement of genetically modified foods.
“We are opposed to the nomination of this gentleman not for any personal reasons but on a principled position and that is because he was just the minority spokesperson on agriculture throughout the Mahama administration at a time when Food Sovereignty Ghana had sent plenty petitions to Parliament… and we felt that as the minority person in charge of agriculture, he didn’t keep the last government on their toes.
…We believe that the president means well for this nation…and the gentleman that he has proposed to head the agricultural sector is one that has shown a lack of commitment to opening up the debate in letting Ghanaian people know about the issue of GMO.”
The group makes a reference particularly to a heated television discussion in 2014 about the controversial Plant Breeders Bill, which according to FSG gives enough room for the advancement of genetically modified foods in Ghana.
“Genetically modified food is eaten in America and Ghana and everywhere through feeding grains to chickens and [other poultry produce] and we [Ghanaians] are eating it [as well]. Are we all dead? All the Americans would be dead by now,” Dr Afriyie said during the discussion on Accra-based TV3.
He however contended in that discussion that GMO had lost its popularity even in the US because of a shift towards organic food.
By law, members of the public can send notices to Parliament if they have concerns about the nomination of particular persons named by the president for ministerial positions.
One of FSG’s backers include Samia Nkrumah, the former chairperson of Ghana’s oldest existing party, the Convention People’s Party.
So what exactly are GMOs?
According to the World Health Organisation, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as “organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology…allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between nonrelated species. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods.”
Are GMOs safe?
The bone of contention with regards to GMO is its safety. In a June 2005 report released by the global health body, it said GM foods could contribute to ‘enhancing human health and development’ however it strongly urged on “the need for continued safety assessments on GM before they are marketed, to prevent risks to both human health and the environment.”
Many countries in within the European Union, including Germany, Austria and Hungary, are vehemently against the cultivation of genetically modified foods and have banned their commercialization.
One of the leading developers of GM foods worldwide is Monsanto, which some supporters of FSG have described as ‘bonsam’ (the devil).