Senior Research Scientist at the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Dr. Jerry Nboyine explained efforts are underway to ensure approval for Ghana’s first GMO crop, the pod borer resistant (PBR) cowpea.
This was revealed at a four-day workshop themed, Speaking Science Ghana, which brought together senior and junior scientists with academic institutions and research organisations across the country for training on best practices in science communication.
The GM cowpea has been developed to resist the deadly pod borer which could cause up to 100% crop yield loss on farms. “With PBR Cowpea, farmers can attain the potential yields of most commercially released cowpea varieties which is about 2 tonnes per hectare. This is about a four-fold yield increment over existing yields,” he explained.
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.”
“With GM cowpea, Ghana can attain food sufficiency in the area of cowpea production. Nigeria has commercialised PBR Cowpea and will soon export grains to Ghana informally. Our market women will buy cowpea from Nigeria and there is no guarantee that some PBR Cowpea will not be included in what is brought into Ghana,” he observed.
Dr. Maxwell Darko Asante who is Deputy Director of the Crop Research Institute of the CSIR also told the participants Ghana is additionally developing a GM rice (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 have the skills to be able to go out there… It’s time for the public to know what scientists are doing in the lab. To my fellow scientists, step out, and let people know how science can contribute to the development of Ghana,” she said.
Sandra Nsoh who is a teaching assistant at the Department of Biotechnology at the University for Development Studies told the media she learned a lot from the workshop.
“I am a very good speaker, but this training has really sharpened my communication skills. One speaker said the new generation of scientists should be active on social media platforms. I intend to wake myself up and speak more about science,” she said