Peasant farmers oppose GMOs, citing dire implications

Source The Ghana Report

The recent approval of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Ghana has raised concerns among peasant farmers, who fear it will harm the country’s agricultural sector.

They argue that depending on GMO seeds from multinational corporations will erode their independence and threaten their livelihoods. They also warned that GMOs could lead to the country being denied much-needed foreign revenue due to global restrictions on the import of GMO foods.

The decision to approve GMOs comes amid pressure to enhance agricultural productivity and tackle food security concerns. Supporters of GMOs argue that they provide solutions to issues such as pest resistance, drought tolerance and higher crop yields.

While this is true, many small-scale farmers are apprehensive because they perceive GMOs as a threat to their traditional farming practices and autonomy.

The smallholder farmers are particularly concerned about the constant reliance on seeds from GMO developers exacerbating their economic plight.

“The consequences of this approval are dire and mark the beginning of the loss of Ghana’s control over our indigenous agricultural system, leaving it in the hands and control of powerful multinationals who can decide and dictate the pace of our food system,” warns Wepia Addo Awal Adugwala, the National President of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, in a statement copied to the B&FT.

“The experiences of COVID-19 and the Russia Ukraine crises on food nationalism and protectionism should have given our leaders a hint of not sacrificing the control of a country’s production system, particularly seeds, into the hands of multinationals,” he added.

According to him, the country would gradually lose its own indigenous foods and seed varieties, compromising public health through the production and consumption of these “deadly” foods.

Peasant farmers also express concerns about the long-term environmental and health impacts of GMOs. They fear that the cultivation of genetically engineered crops could result in biodiversity loss, soil degradation and unforeseen health risks.

The approval

The country recently granted approval for the commercialisation of 14 novel genetically modified (GM) products, consisting of eight (8) maize and six (6) soya bean products, through the National Biosafety Authority (NBA). This decision follows the release of GM cowpea in 2022.

“While we find this development disturbing, we are not particularly surprised as we predicted that neglecting the resistance of key stakeholders against the passage of the Plant Variety Protection Act, 2020, which was just a leeway and a canopy to allow the commercialisation of GMO products meant to promote the interests of four multinational seed companies—Bayer, Corteva, Syngenta and Group Limagrain—that control over 50 percent of the seed sector globally,” remarked Mr. Adugwala.

He further stated that the government’s decision to proceed with the commercialisation of GM crops was surprising and contradicted the promise made by the government on January 14, 2020 through the then Minister for Food and Agriculture. The minister had assured farmers that the nation’s capable scientists could use traditional breeding methods to develop high-yielding and disease-resistant plant varieties for cultivation; thus, eliminating the need for GMOs in Ghana for the next 100 years.

Are GMOs the answer?

Angered by the development, the president of the peasant farmers strongly criticised the adoption of GMO technology, emphasising that GMO crops are not the solution to the country’s food insecurity challenges.

Mr. Adugwala stated: “This is because Ghanaian farmers have managed to produce ample food using farmer-saved seeds and new seed varieties released by local seed breeders”. He highlighted that in 2023, Ghanaian farmers, without any government support, successfully produced significant amounts of grains, tubers and vegetables but are now facing difficulties in finding markets. “All efforts by the government to assist with market access have failed; and currently, rice and maize farmers are relying on Burkinabes and Togolese for markets,” he added.

He questioned: “If we can produce so much with our local seeds, why the preference for laboratory seeds that come with serious negative implications for health, the economy and the environment? The government and Ghanaian scientists should focus their energy on the well-being of Ghanaians rather than their own interests”.

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