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Farmers and Scientists call for abridging approval processes for PBR Cowpea in Ghana

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Farmers and Scientists are appealing to the Ministry of Food & Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) and the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to expedite its regulatory processes to approve the PBR Cowpea seed.
The stakeholders want the processes hastened to ensure that once scientists come out with quality material, it should quickly be in the hands of farmers because other neighboring countries are benefiting from the same technology.
The PBR Cowpea seed is still undergoing release trials on fields for approval from the National Variety Release and Registration Committee (NVRRC) to pave the way for commercial cultivation.
Misconceptions
Speaking to cowpea farmers at Tinkurugu in the Nanton district of the Northern Region on the current developments regarding genetically modified organisms in the country, former Director General of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Professor Walter Alhassan advised cowpea farmers in the country to ignore misinformation and disinformation about PBR cowpea.
“The new PBR cowpea will cure the deadly cowpea pest known as Maruca and reduce drastically the number of times you farmers spray chemicals on your crops” he said.
Research Scientist with the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI), Dr. Daniel Osei Ofosu attributed misconceptions and misinformation about GMOs to scientists not being proactive in communicating their work to the general public.
“Let me assure you journalists across the country that we are very available to explain the issues on your platforms if invited” he said.
Abridge


Speaking after a visit to a PBR Cowpea varietal trial field at Nyankpala in the Tolon District of the Northern, Deputy Director General and Chief Research Scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Professor Marian Quain wants the regulatory authorities to expedite its regulatory processes to approve the PBR Cowpea for commercial cultivation across Ghana.
“I wished it had happened faster because getting a transgenic crop is not an overnight process. “But once you have had it, I will really appreciate if things are hastened so, seeds will quickly be in the hands of the end users for them to benefit fully from the technology that we are churning out as researchers” she said.
Yield
Adam Fuseini, who has been cultivating cowpea at Nyankpala for the past five years, said that he got only up to three bags of cowpea from an acre farm even though he had to spray the farm for up to eight times using chemicals before harvesting.
“We are suffering a lot. I spend a lot of money to cultivate the existing cowpea seed but upon harvest, I do not break even” he said.
Musah Rashidatu said, “We are eagerly expecting the approval of the BT Cowpea seed. It will help me a lot. I have seen that the BT Cowpea is different from the one I plant.”
Remedy
The Deputy Director of the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute (SARI), Dr. Issah Sugri, said agricultural biotechnology had been identified as one potent weapon to tackle the challenges facing farmers in the country, and added that biotechnology crops could make farming more profitable by increasing crop quality.
Breakthrough
A plant breeder and entomologist at the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-SARI) and Principal Investigator for the PBR Cowpea, Dr. Jerry Nboyine, said the cowpea sector would receive a major boost when the crop was finally commercialised as it exhibited very high levels of resistance to the legume pod borer which was responsible for up to 80 per cent of yield losses on farmers’ cowpea fields.
“It has a lot of socio-economic benefits because with the PBR Cowpea seed, pesticide spraying will be reduced, which is good for both human health and the soil structure,” he noted.

Appreciation
Senior Research Scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) – Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) and OFAB Ghana Coordinator, Dr. Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw used the opportunity to thank his colleagues for the great support and the technical knowledge shared with farmers and journalist during the community and field visit as part of efforts to clear misconceptions around the technology.
“Ghanaian plant breeders are also Ghanaians and have families and will therefore not endanger the lives of others.
“We are here to shed light on the significant progress made in the development of a GM product, specifically the Pod Borer Resistance (PBR) Cowpea.
“GMO is not a chemical, it is nothing scary but a technology that is used to develop food crops based on the best practices” he added.
Story by:
Nana Yaw Reuben

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