Some farmers in northern Ghana are calling on government to speed up ongoing works to commercialise GMOs in the country.

At a media briefing in Tamale over the weekend, representatives of six farmer organisations under the umbrella name, Concerned Farmers of the Northern Region expressed concern about the continuous decline of cotton and cowpea production in that part of the country.

They attributed the situation to repeated pest attacks which they are confident introduction of GMO varieties will help deal with.

“If science has a solution for us in the form of Genetically Modified seeds, we the farmers of Ghana say and state emphatically we want GM seeds to be developed for us,” the farmers told said.

The coalition includes the Northern Farmers Association, Juni Farmers Association, Northern Livestock Farmers Association, and the Northern Outgrowers and Business Association.

Below is the full statement delivered by conveners Ibrahim Alhassan of the Juni Farmers Association and Nasiru Adams of the Northern Farmers Association.

Press statement by Concerned Farmers Association

We the farmers of northern region gathered here today under the umbrella of the Concerned Farmers of the Northern Region join the world today in marching for science and saying “AYEKOO!!” to our gallant scientists in the country, for being allies to our profession as farmers and helping us develop the agriculture sector in our country.

We would want to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to organizations such as the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Alliance for Science Ghana and other bodies championing the development and promotion of technologies and innovations, to help develop agriculture in this country. We thank them for their enormous work in educating farmers on the benefits of science for us, especially when it comes to Genetically Modified Seeds.

We the farmers of this group have sat through educational and awareness creation workshops organized by various bodies including OFAB and have come to the realization that; biotechnology as a scientific tool is not a killer nor a monster as some may describe it, but one that is used to modify seeds genetically for our good. It provides efficient solutions, to the problems we the farmers of Ghana face in our daily operations in crop and other production activities.

Farmers in Ghana have taken notice and are reliably informed by our fellow farmers in Nigeria that they are on the verge of having GM cowpea and cotton variety of seeds, which will boost their agriculture production significantly. The problem of pest, especially maruca on their cowpea and is going to be history soon. Cotton production, on the other hand, is going to receive a boost thereby enriching the farmers, other value actors and the nation.

As our colleague farmers in Nigeria, we the Concerned Farmers of the Northern Region and other like-minded farmers in Ghana say “we also deserve better”. Our cowpea production in the North is on the decline, our cotton industry is virtually not existence; due largely to the difficulties farmers face in trying to deal with the problem of pest.

Up to 80% of our cowpea produces are lost to damage by pest even with spraying, which is a further drain on our pockets. If science has a solution for us in the form of Genetically Modified seeds, we the farmers of Ghana say and state emphatically we want GM seeds to be developed for us.

We are therefore calling on our Members of Parliament in the Northern, Savanna, North East and Upper East and Upper West Regions; to heed to the cry of farmers concerning difficulties we face with pest and diseases, and push for the availability of GM seeds that will help us fight these pests without the use of spraying a lot of chemicals.

These chemicals apart from the high cost are injurious to the health of farmers, their families and consumers. The harm that these chemicals cause to the environment and the soil are so huge that it is immeasurable. Simply they are harmful to our health and they are not good for the environment.

The farmers of Ghana have the right to choose which solutions and variety of seeds we want to plant. We are calling on the Government, Minister of Agriculture and the MPs concerned who have the small scale farmers at heart to ensure that GM seeds are available alongside the conventional seeds (non-GM seeds) to farmers.

They should allow our own scientists who have all these years being developing the non-GM improved varieties to continue their good work and leave the choice of seeds to us the farmers to decide. We will no longer sit aloof for armchair activists against the technology, who know little about the suffering of farmers to suppress our right to choose GM seeds – a viable solution to our pest problem.

We know our scientists are capable of developing solutions to our problems. This they have always done. We are therefore calling on the government, policy makers and policy implementers to accept the research findings from Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and facilitate the commercialization of the needed GM variety cowpea to help farmers.

Finally, to OFAB Ghana we thank you for your knowledge sharing and educational insight into agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified seeds specifically. To the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) scientists, we say thank you for the knowledge and effort you have put into finding solutions for farmers in the form of local GM varieties for our cowpea and rice.

To the government of Ghana, we say act now and facilitate the commercialization of GM variety seeds especially cowpea and rice. Let the farmers have the GM variety alongside the conventional seeds, we are simply demanding for our right of choice.

To the armchair activist against GM, we say farmers know their problem, we want potent solutions and we have the right to choose the best solution variety of seeds because we want to be progressive to become commercial farmers.

Concerned Farmers of the Northern Region say we are for GM variety seeds.