Agricultural Biotechnology Annual Report

An Expert's View about Agriculture and Animal Husbandry in Ghana

Posted on: 31 Oct 2011

The Ghanaian Parliament, in June 21, 2011 passed the Biosafety Bill which will create a favorable environment for the development and commercialization of biotech seeds and crops.

THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT POLICY Required Report - public distribution Date: 8/30/2011 GAIN Report Number: GH1103 Ghana Agricultural Biotechnology Annual Agricultural Biotechnology Annual Report Approved By: Russ Nicely Prepared By: Elmasoeur Ashitey and Marcela Rondon Report Highlights: This executive summary and sections II, III, IV, V and VI were updated. The Ghanaian Parliament, in June 21, 2011 passed the Biosafety Bill which will create a favorable environment for the development and commercialization of biotech seeds and crops. It is anticipated that biotech cotton, sweet potato, cassava, cowpea, corn, soy, and rice will developed for the Ghanaian market over the next few years. Ghana?s biosafety legislation is considered user friendly as it does not contain any labeling requirements for biotech or genetically modified food products or strict liability provisions. This should help the country to respond to the challenges of food security and climate change. Section I. Executive Summary: U.S. food exports to Ghana consist primarily of rice, poultry, and other consumer oriented food products. U.S. Customs data showed an increase in total US agricultural exports in CY 2010, with exports at $61 million, up from $52 million in 2009. Although US rice exports to Ghana, rice from Asian sources is in strong competition. U.S. rice exports in CY 2010 were $29 million up from $21 million in CY 2009. The U.S. is one of the major suppliers of poultry in Ghana with the main competitor being Brazil. However, U.S. exports of poultry to Ghana were $18 million, down from $20.5 million in 2009. U.S. exports of high value products (HVP), including vegetable oils, fruit and vegetable juice, pulses, processed fruits and vegetables, sweeteners and other products, continues to grow. The United Nations Environment Program and the Global Environment Facility (UNEP/GEF) provided financial and technical support for the drafting of the Biosafety Framework for Ghana that was completed in July, 2004. The USAID-sponsored Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), implemented by a consortium led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), also played a significant role in developing the underlying legal framework for biotechnology and biosafety policy in Ghana in 2004-2008. In recent years PBS has been hosted in West Africa by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). The draft Biosafety Bill establishes the National Biosafety Authority as the administrative body responsible for all issues related to Biotechnology in Ghana. The Ghana Parliament passed the Biosafety Bill on June 21, 2011. It now awaits presidential signature. The bill establishes biosafety regulations that will govern procedures for contained work and field trials on biotechnology products; release into the environment, commercialization, importation, exportation and transit of agricultural biotechnology products. The Embassy has a copy of the Bill as presented by the Government of Ghana (GOG) to Parliament, but has not yet received a final copy of the bill as passed by Parliament, because the bill is currently with the Office of the Attorney General for incorporation of all edits and corrections from Parliament before signature by the President. However, US Embassy contacts who are biosafety and biotechnology experts and familiar with the Parliament markup of the bill have advised us that the bill as passed is substantially the same as the submitted bill. The Ghana Biosafety Bill will create an enabling environment for the development and commercialization of biotech seeds and crops such as biotech varieties of cotton, sweet potato, cassava, cowpea, corn, soy, and rice. The Biosafety legislation does not contain any labeling requirements for biotech or genetically modified food products, or strict liability provisions. The Biosafety Bill stipulates that, all biotechnology products will require a permit from the National Biosafety Authority (Yet to be established). Under the biosafety law, existing regulatory agencies such as The Ghana Food and Drugs Board; Environmental Protection Agency; and Ghana Customs will be responsible for monitoring and enforcement of biotechnology products. Prior to the Passage of the Biosafety Bill the Ghana parliament passed a Biosafety Legislative Instrument (LI) in May 2008 that authorized the conduct of confined field research/trials of genetically engineered products but did not allow for the commercialization or release of products to farmers and consumers. Ghana ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity on August 29, 1994 and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety on May 30, 2003. Section II. Plant Biotechnology Trade and Production: A. Commercial Production of Biotechnology Crops The biosafety legislation will pave the way for a number of biotech seeds and crops to be developed for the Ghanaian market over the next few years, including varieties of cotton, sweet potato, cassava, cowpea, corn, soy, and rice. Ghana does not currently produce any biotechnology crops commercially. The capacity and knowledge exist for the development and production of modern agricultural biotechnology crops. According to Government of Ghana (GOG) sources, however, most research institutes have stated that biotechnology activity in Ghana is still at the diagnostic level. Scientists now are assessing the genetic diversity of both food crops and industrial crops, focusing on pests, diseases, yields and maturity periods as a prelude to modern biotechnology development. B. Biotechnology Crops under Development With the Biotsafety Bill just passing in last June, 2011, there are no biotechnology crops currently under development in Ghana that will be on the market in the near term. However, some contained experiments using modern agricultural biotechnology methods are being carried out by research institutes and universities in Ghana. These include virus disease resistance in cassava, pest and disease resistance in cowpea, and improvement of lysine strain in corn. Also Ghana and Cote d?Ivoire are jointly performing contained work on the Cape St Paul Virus Wilt in coconut plantations along the border of the two countries. C. Imports of Biotechnology Crops/Products Ghana officially does not import bioengineered products. Agricultural products such as soybean meal, soybean oil and processed foods are freely imported from the United States, the European Union, Argentina and Brazil that may contain biotech elements. D. Food Aid There are no U.S. food aid programs currently in Ghana. E. Production of Biotechnology Crops Developed Outside the United States Presently Ghana does not produce any biotechnology crops. Section III. Plant Biotechnology Policy: A. Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology The GOG established a National Biosafety Committee in 2002 whose mandate was to draft the Biosafety Bill, produce guidelines for the implementation of the biosafety law and to prompt the GOG forward on Biotechnology issues. It is made up of officials of government institutions, scientists, farmer organizations, friends of the earth organizations and other stakeholders. It is a working committee that continuously dialoged with the GOG for the passage of the Biosafety law. It drafted the Biosafety Bill in 2004 and produced the National Biosafety framework and five biosafety guidelines (see section VI Reference material) Responsible Institutions for Implementing the Biosafety Bill The institutions to be set up by the Government of Ghana now the Ghana Biosafety Bill is passed are: The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBC) The NBA is the designated national authority on all issues related to modern agricultural biotechnology in Ghana. All applicants, except for contained use and field trials, will go through this authority. The governing body of the NBA is a Board whose chairman and members are appointed by the President for a period of three years. The TAC will consist of not more than eleven individuals from the regulatory agencies and from the private sector who are knowledgeable in science and socio-economic matters related to biotechnology. TAC is the national advisory committee on matters concerning or related to biotechnology and will carry out risk assessments of applications at the request of the Board. The Minister of Food and Agriculture appoints the members based on recommendations by the Board for a period not exceeding five years. The IBC reviews applications for contained use and field trials. The regulatory agencies of the Government of Ghana responsible for monitoring and enforcement will also be represented on the TAC. They include: The Food and Drugs Board (FDB)? Food safety and related matters Plant Protection and Regulatory Services/MOFA ? Plant health and related matters Veterinary Services Department/MOFA ? Animal health and related matters Environmental Protection Agency ? Environmental releases and related matters Customs, Excise and Preventive Services ? Border handling of biotechnology products in collaboration with agencies listed above. Role and membership of the National Biosafety Authority The national focal point on Biosafety in Ghana is the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST), which was reconstituted about two years ago. MEST will be responsible for liaising with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity for the administrative functions required under the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety. The Ghana Biosafety Regulatory system is a coordinated framework and the Biosafety Bill establishes the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), which will be interdisciplinary in nature, to process applications relating to biotechnology substances under the Act. The NBA will ensure adherence to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety through implementation of the national biosafety guidelines and other regulations. Additionally, the bill makes provision for a governing Council, the Board, to have a technical advisory committee that will provide advice to the Board. Establishment of an Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) is also provided under the bill. The Biosafety Bill also provides for issuance of further guidelines to facilitate better performance of the National Biosafety Authority. The NBA will have the powers as stated under section 39 of the Biosafety Bill to draft and adopt regulations or guidelines to ensure safety of humans and the environment; stop a project through the relevant IBC after establishing that further continuation of the project is unsafe to the personnel, community and environment; and approve deregulation of all regulated materials for free movement and commercial release on the recommendation of relevant IBCs. The bill states that a person or organization intending to introduce a biotech product into the environment or import or place a biotech product on the market must first obtain the written approval of the NBA. Composition of the governing body of the National Biosafety Authority includes: 1. An expert in biotechnology and related biological sciences including biosafety, as Chairman 2. The Chairman of the Technical Advisory Committee; 3. The Chief Director, or the representative of the lead Ministry on Biotech issues; 4. One representative, Association of Ghanaian Industries (AGI); 5. One legal practitioner of not less than ten years experience; 6. One representative of non governmental organizations (NGO); 7. Two other persons to be nominated by the president, one of whom should be a woman; 8. The Chief Executive Officer, National Biosafety Authority. Assessment of Political Factors The Biotechnology and Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) coordinated the project to draft a Biosafety Framework for Ghana between November 2002 and July 2004. UNEP/GEF provided financial and technical support for the project. The framework is unique to Ghana but it is modeled after the UNEP/GEF blueprint which includes: a government policy on biosafety, a regulatory regime, a system to handle requests for authorizations (including risk assessment, decision-making) and administrative functions, systems for ?follow up? (such as enforcement and monitoring for environmental effects), and systems for public awareness and participation. The text of the Framework and draft Biosafety Bill is available at the UNEP/GEF website (www.unep.ch/biosafety/development/country reports/GHNFrep.pdf). The Biosafety Framework states that there is no specific policy on biosafety in Ghana, rather that the Ghanaian?s position is guided by other principles stated in the National Science and Technology Policy (2000), the Constitution (Art 36, 41) and the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS). The proposed policy appears favorable to the use and acceptance of biotechnology. However, at the same time the GOG ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in May 2003. Therefore, the ?precautionary approach and the environmentally sound management of biotechnology? are also factors that were strongly considered in drafting the Framework and Biosafety Act. For example, the Act begins with stating that the first objective is ?to ensure, in accordance with the precautionary principle, an adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer, handling and use of genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) that may have an adverse effect on the environment.? B. Approval of Biotechnology Crops Passage of the Ghana Biosafety Bill gives powers to the NBA to approve biotechnology crops for food, processing and feed. However, the NBA is yet to be constituted to start work. C. Field Testing There is no field testing of biotechnology crops in Ghana yet. However, with the passage of the Biosafety regulation in June 21, 2011 field testing may commence. Most of the research institutions have been doing contained research and this is an opportunity for them to start field testing. D. Stacked Events The NBA does not require additional approval for stacked events. E. Coexistence Ghana?s proposed Biosafey bill is silent on co-existence. F. Labeling Ghana requires labeling for packaged foods and feeds. The Foods and Drugs Board (FDB) General Labeling Rules, 1992, (L. I. 1514) stipulates that food labeling be informative and accurate. Labeling of packaged and prepackaged products is for purposes of health, food safety and need to know. The minimum labeling requirements are that labeling should be clear, concise and in English; should have product name, net mass/weight, batch number and expiry date; list of ingredients and food additives must be stated. It is mandatory to label any prepackaged food item that has nutritional composition. The Biosafety legislation does not contain any labeling requirements for biotech or genetically modified food products, or strict liability provisions. General labeling regulations for food products are strictly enforced, but they are not specific to biotechnology products. G. Biosafety Protocol Ghana ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity on August 1994 and the Convention?s Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety on May 30, 2003. As stated in the National Biosafety Framework for Ghana, the Protocol is in consonance with the Ghana Constitutional obligations, Ghana environmental law and policy and the fulfillment of Ghana?s treaty obligations. FAS/Accra is not aware of any significant impact on trade. H. Biotechnology-Related Trade Barriers FAS/Accra is not aware of any biotechnology-related trade barriers affecting U.S. exports to Ghana. I. Pending Legislation With the recent passage of the biosafety legislation, the way is paved for a number of biotech seeds and crops to be developed for the Ghanaian market over the next few years, including biotech varieties of cotton, sweet potato, cassava, cowpea, corn, soy, and rice. In May 2008 the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) promulgated a Biosafety Legislative Instrument (LI) to circumvent the delay in the passage of the Biosafety Bill in order to allow scientific advancement. The LI was passed by Parliament in May, 2008. The LI used the existing CSIR Act 521 of 1996 as a template, since it has provisions for the conduct of research in general, seeks to simply extend this to the conduct of research on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). According to GOG sources, the LI recognized and empowered the NBC as the national focal Point on Biosafety. It also authorized the conduct of confined field research/trials, but did not allow the commercialization or release of products to farmers and consumers. . J. Technology fee Ghana does not assess technology fees for bioengineered crops and does not have legislation in place to collect such fees. Section IV. Plant Biotechnology Marketing Issues: A. Market Acceptance In Ghana, the majority of people are not aware of modern agricultural biotechnology products and the issues involved. Post discussions with representatives of some local Farmer Organizations (NGOs) in Ghana revealed that they have been involved in the process for the development of the Biosafety Framework for Ghana. Their major concerns, regarding public awareness, participation and decision- making have been included in the biosafety guideline and should be addressed during the implementation process. B. Focus group Survey Information and discussions of modern biotechnology have been ongoing among GOG officials, scientists and researchers. Post is not aware of any specific study assessing Ghanaians? acceptance of biotechnology products. However, Post expects that the Ghanaian producer, importer, retailer and consumer would all accept biotechnology inputs if it increase seed production and income. Currently Ghana imports processed products from South America, Europe and the United States that may contain biotechnology elements. Ghana currently exports non-traditional food products especially pineapples, bananas and chili peppers to Europe. Section V. Plant Biotechnology Capacity Building and Outreach: A. Government or USDA Funded Outreach activities Ghana is clearly moving forward on biosafety and biotechnology with the passage of the Biosafety Bill in June 2011. Ghana could benefit from capacity building outreach programs that would support science based regulatory efforts and provide accurate information to the broader public on the positive benefits of biotechnology. USDA has funded biotechnology training over the last few years via the Norman Borlaug Fellowship and Cochran Fellowship programs. USAID, through the Global Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), has been promoting the judicious use of modern biotechnology in Ghana to increase agricultural productivity with linkages to regional and global markets. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) was the lead institution implementing the project. U.S. based biotechnology research institutions participated in the program. The overall objectives of the PBS program include: 1) Establishing an enabling environment for the testing and use of biotechnology products; 2) Strengthening the skills and increasing capacity for near-term conduct of field trials and food safety assessments; 3) Developing and implementing a strategic plan for communication and outreach that engages diverse stakeholders and the general public. PBS has been working primarily with the Forum for Agricultural Research (FARA), International Food Policy Research (IFPRI), Biotechnology and Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC). Other partner institutions and key stakeholders, and people to whom the message has been targeted include the Ministries of Environment, Science and Technology; Food and Agriculture; Trade and Industry; and Health, universities, research and other public and private sector groups. Parliamentarians have also been sensitized on biotechnology through the efforts of PBS. B. Country Specific Needs In order to facilitate the GOG effort to move forward on biotechnology regulation, there is the need to continue to boost awareness among government officials, academia, and other stakeholders especially farmers. Capacity building and training is required for the personnel of the Ministries of Food and Agriculture, Environment, Science and Technology, and other officials to be able to develop a biosafety protocol. Technical assistance may also be welcome in setting up a regulatory authority office and secretariat to draft implementing regulations for the Biosafety Bill; to accept and consider applications for confined field trials or commercialization of biotech products; and to conduct outreach and awareness raising activities among potential applicants, agribusiness, farmers, and stakeholders regarding the regulatory system and application process. Section VII. Author Defined: Russ Nicely Regional Agricultural Counselor Marcela E. Rondon Regional Agricultural Attaché Office of Agricultural -Affairs US Consulate General 2, Walter Carrington Crescent Victoria Island, Lagos-Nigeria Telephone: (234) 1-460-3577, 775-0830 E-mail: aglagos@usda.gov Elmasoeur Z. Ashitey (Mrs) Agricultural Specialist Office of Agricultural Affairs American Embassy No 24, Fourth Circular Rd., Cantonments, Accra, Ghana Tel: 233-302-741421 Fax: 233-302-741478 E-mail: agaccra@usda.gov Prof Josephine Nketia Director Biochemical and Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute (BNARI) Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, P.O. Box LG 80, Legon, Ghana. Tel: 233-302-400310/402286/401323 Fax: 233-302-400807 Email: weks@idngh.com Prof Walter Sandow Alhassan Forum for Agricultural Research(FARA) 2 Gowa Close, Roman Ridge PMB CT 173, Accra Tel: 233-302-772823, 779476 Fax: 233-302-773676 Email: walhassan@fara-africa.org Website: www.fara-africa.org Eric Amaning Okoree Assistant Director - Biosafety / Biodiveristy Desk. Ministry Of Environment, Science And Technology P. O. Box M232, Accra Ghana TEL: +233-302-673509/666049 FAX: +233-302-688913 CELL: +233-20-8163038 / +233-26-8163038 E-mail: eric.okoree@gmail.com
Posted: 31 October 2011

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