The much talked about ‘GMOs’- genetic modification or alteration of make-up of living things to achieve a desired result would soon take a new name of ‘bioengineered products’; shifting from the earlier or traditional tag of Genetically Modified products. A move I see as re-organized packaging of the GMO technology which some forces against its proponent say is flawed. The best sources of food for such activist are the organic or traditional sources.
I have been following the debate in Ghana for some time now and just caught my attention that the civil society campaign against the introduction of GMOs into the country may be lacking behind in their approach globally.
From my browsing on the internet, the fooddemocracynow.org says about 64 countries apart from the United States inform their citizens if their food has been genetically engineered with simple labels. Now it seems the campaign in one of the biggest markets in the world is the enactment of these basic rights.
A letter addressed to congressmen and the FDA Commissioner asks for ‘strong’ mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods as against an alleged move by biotech seed and chemical companies and giant food corporations to introduce a legislation that would undermine state’s rights to pass GMO labeling laws.
According to the group, “America must join the rest of the civilized world and pass a strong mandatory labeling bill that is in line with European standards to protect America’s right to know what’s in their food and inform consumers if our food has been genetically engineered.”
The letter said for the past 20 years the U.S. government has continued to deny any risk from genetic engineering, despite increasing scientific evidence that this flawed technology is potentially harmful to human health and the environment.
Food Democracy Now is against a federal GMO label on any product from GMO plants if those ingredients present a health or safety risk. In my view, why ask for state interventions in the union when you should be thinking as Americans with a common market? Why can’t the Federation regulate for all? Why do you want do take the debate/regulation on food quality and safety to the ‘governorship’ level and not ‘presidential’?
Do I sense that the forces for and against Bioengineering may be doing so because of economic power? Is one out-doing the other in economic gains globally? Is it not a fight for survival of a business empire rather than saying it’s for the ordinary American… in the case of the Ghana, the ordinary Ghanaian? But another thought comes to mind; with a technology of a caliber as the ‘bioengineered’ food products, decentralized monitoring and regulation could in my view also strengthen public health safety. OSGATA et al v. Monsanto.
If one is to take into consideration the campaign in the US and Ghana, two terminologies stand out; ‘Sovereignty’ and ‘Democracy’. The latter makes the debate for more open-minded and the former more of a conservative stance. Even in the EU it is documented that Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia and the Netherlands wrote a joint paper requesting that individual countries should have the right to decide whether to cultivate GM crops.
This move by these states may bring into focus the stance of the Food Sovereignty Ghana. But the bottom line is with the politics and hidden motives; what is actually blocking the pursuit of natural enquiry? Is it power-based issue and a case-by-case issue of the economic benefit to a particular regime? Scientist and industry seems to have done their bit but I fear the state is also fighting for a place to manipulate or control market penetration of the innovation.
The European Union had already authorized forty-eight GMOs as of August 2012, mostly for farm feeds and food processing. The Monetary zone has also provided a safeguard clause that Member States may invoke to temporarily restrict or prohibit the use and/or sale of a GMO within their territory if they have justifiable reasons to consider that the approved GMO constitutes a risk to human health or the environment. France and Germany have their qualms with the EU; but then Spain is the largest producer of GM foods in Europe. I tell you…I smell some power-brokering here and there, who will control which market and under which approval/license for what time frame? This GM innovation is money!!
So the whole argument in Ghana gives the whole politically motivated plot up. The Economic angle. The Convention Peoples Party founded by the Late Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah is championing the NO campaign for GMO’s in Ghana. As to how much seats or presidential votes this campaign offers in 2016, I don’t know. Because from the way it’s going GMO’s may sail through Ghana’s parliament based on the technical support we enjoy from some bilateral donors. Although the No campaign is on, it hasn’t fetched any candidate a brighter prospect of securing a ticket to parliament to handle Ghana’s food safety concerns. Unless, somebody knows otherwise. So, what is it like to be an Nkrumaistand talk Bio-engineering?
The Late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah may have debunked an accusation that the CPP was ‘anti-intellectual and contemptuous of knowledge’ in his address to the CCP Students Union in the University College of Ghana, now University of Ghana, Legon, in June 5, 1960. But does such an assertion still exist in 21st century Ghana? The CPP is arguing that streamlining GMO activities through legislation is an attempt by “an overwhelming lobby” of multinational companies such as Monsanto, Du Pont, Sygenta, and others to push a “sinister” agenda to control Ghana’s food chain through unsuspecting and on the blind side of Ghanaians.
The daughter of the founder of ‘our homeland’ who currently Chairs the CPP, Samia Nkrumah, therefore demanded that all 275 MPs in Parliament kick against the Plant Breeders Bill 2013 to send a clear warning to multi-national companies that Ghana’s answer to malnutrition is not bioengineering, but alleviating poverty. I wonder the international politico-socio-economic affiliation of the CPP but it seems it is not different from conservative opinions globally. The two dominant political forces in Ghana, NPP and NDC, claim to be liberal and social democrats respectively.
But the forces against genetically modified food has rankled many scientists. Scientist argue that opponents of G.M.O.s have distorted the risks associated with them and have underplayed the risks of failing to try to use the technology to improve production.
Dr Kwame Nkrumah was a visionary, that we all agree but what is the vision of the political think-tank he founded on food security. Samia’s point of view is loud but I beg to differ that it lacks detail. How do we alleviate poverty? His father gave a warning about ‘economic imperialism’ or anything that may compromise the country’s political independence. But the same Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah also warned the students at the time to shed the Don Quixote Armour of Unreality, which according to Ghana’s first President had ruined so many modern institutions which had tried to live a life of self deceit and with both their head and feet in the clouds. To them, the Osagyefo said “come down to earth”. What is modernization?
Russia also has a conservative stance on GMO’s but is working closely with the WTO on its future. The member of the former Soviet Union has taken a lenient stance on GMO’s entering the Russian market. What is our pride as Ghanaians when we cannot read in-between the lines to know what is trending globally? Russia was a close ally of the Nkrumah regime, at least on financial aid. The CPP may have to go slow on the NO campaign, less they cannot see the other side of its benefits; especially in livestock production.
We are talking the Osagyefo’s Ghana in the age of bio-engineering. I am thus, putting the KNUST on the radar here, what is Ghana’s future in GMOs or the broader subject of bio-engineering?
By :Joe Bright Nyarko
‘Selected Speeches of Kwame Nkrumah’ Vol. 1 complied by Samuel Obeng