GMOs Set to Crush Export Markets for Farmers across Ghana*
Ghanaians have been fighting attempts at the imposition of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), by the Biotech industry and The Gates Foundation into their food system for the last few years, including by taking the Government to Court on the issue.
By Ali-Masmadi Jehu-Appiah
The public GMO debate has mainly focused on health and the environment, but hardly ever on the socio-economic impacts of GMOs. The socio-economic ramifications of the imposition of GMOs alone ought to be enough to ban its use in Ghana. The creeping intrusions of GMOs into Ghana’s economy, is likely to increase poverty, rather than diminish it; by increasing the penetration of transnational corporations into Ghana’s agriculture thus decreasing profit margins for small local farmers. Ghanaian agriculture cannot afford an economy that is designed for the benefit of external interests at the expense of Ghanaians.
The Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) has already warned of detrimental consequences on Ghana’s non-traditional exports (NTEs) should the country adopt genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into crops grown locally. The issues which GEPA raised included the health and other risk concerns regarding GMOs across Europe where the bulk of Ghana’s NTEs are exported to and new concerns amongst consumers in the United States, which are affecting sales of GMOs and pushing consumer preference to non-GMO foods.
“The potential economic harm would be incalculable if Ghana were to be labelled a GMO haven exporting GM crops to the world,” the Chief Executive Officer of the GEPA, Mr Gideon Qaurcoo, said in a statement published in the Daily Graphic. The report explained that in view of overwhelming evidence from the E.U. and Western world’s attitude to GM foods, it would be detrimental for Ghana to introduce GMOs into its crop production as many products would stand the risk of being rejected by important export markets thus hugely damaging Ghana’s economy.
Exports of Agricultural products (WTO AoA) from Ghana to Europe, in 2014 alone stood at € 1335 million. Many large E.U. supermarkets are turning anti-GMO, including the biggest – REWE in Germany. Reports coming from the U.S. claim organic food sales have doubled since 2007 to $36 billion in 2014. U.S. sales of foods verified as non-GMO have tripled since 2013 to $15 billion.
Surging U.S. demand for organic food — which is not GMO and is also free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers — kept values for organic feed corn and soybeans aloft even while prices for conventional crops plummeted. Agricultural commodities traders catch the natural foods bug . This is also happening in many parts of the world today. Quite recently, on December 9, 2015, a Thai newspaper published an editorial in which it stated:
“We have already witnessed Japan’s rejection of papaya shipments from Thailand because the fruit was “contaminated” with GMOs. Thai farmers naturally fear that their own crops might go unsold if GMO use spreads with the government’s blessing. The supposed ‘benefits’ of using GMOs amount to little if customers shun the produce when it arrives on shelves. Wider use of GMOs would also affect organic farmers – pioneers in a potentially lucrative export market – due to the possibility of airborne spores infecting their carefully nurtured crops”
If Ghanaian authorities really want to help the poor Ghanaian farmer, there is no better time to follow the IAASTD report which recommends low-input, sustainable small-holder model of farming. A U.N. Report even goes as far as saying “Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way To Feed The World” . We can easily establish ourselves as a veritable source of organic foods. GEPA has been at the forefront of promoting and developing the country’s non-traditional exports, including processed and semi-processed agricultural products, handicrafts and services. It is saying the same thing.
Through its efforts, “earnings from NTEs increased from US$1.164 billion in 2007 to US$2.364 billion in 2012, with a target to reach US$ 5 billion in 2017″.The market for organic foods is already growing. Ghana stands a good chance of making a reputation for itself and developing the ever expanding market for healthy sustainable food. It was great to see Ghana making its maiden appearance at the 2015 Middle East Natural and Organic Products Expo (MENOPE) in Dubai. The Ghanaian companies showcased products such as shea butter, dry fruits, coconut oil, morning tea, hibiscus tea, natural cocoa powder and honey.”
The struggle against GMOs in Ghana is currently at its most intense level since the beginning of the campaign led by Food Sovereignty Ghana in 2013. According to statistics emerging from the GM-lobby itself,
“an overwhelming number of Ghanaians do not want to have anything to do with GMOs. We have heard of a research by J. N. Buah on the Perception of GM Foods in Ghana, in which “80% of ordinary Ghanaians who responded to a survey, and 90% of government workers at the ministries indicated their total rejection of GM foods.”