The National Biosafety Authority has urged to step up its communication efforts on GMOs

Joseph Opoku Gakpo, fellow at the Genetic Engineering and Society (GES) Center at North Carolina State University, urges Ghana’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to step up its communication efforts on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) .

Speaking at a webinar organized by the Africa Genetic Biocontrol Consortium on “gaps, challenges and innovations in science communication”, he said recent media reports in which some stakeholders condemned the approval of 14 genetically engineered products in the country could have been avoided by acting proactively. communication.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report released last month found that the agency has approved 14 new GMOs, including eight corn events and six soybean events.

The report received responses from the Peasant Farmers Association, Ghana Agricultural Workers Union, Ghana Journalists for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (GJESHA) and the Center for Climate Change and Food Security (CCCFS), among others.

The Peasant Farmers Association warned that its members will not accept GMO seeds under the government’s flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme.

The authority then clarified in a statement that the approval applies to the import of the GMOs for use as feed, food and for processing, and not for local cultivation.

Mr Gakpo wondered why the authority did not see fit to inform Ghanaians about the approval early this year and waited for a foreign entity to break the story first.

“The approval was in February. The USDA report was published on March 20 and is circulating on various social media platforms.

“It wasn’t until April 14 that the NBA released a statement clarifying what it had done. How will Ghanaians feel about hearing this approval from a foreign partner first?” he asked.

“The NBA should have been the first to post a statement, at least on its website, explaining what exactly it had done and not create a situation where other institutions had to tell their story for them,” Gakpo said.

“So there was no proactive communication. It was just reactive communication. And even the reactive communication happened almost a month later. The authority must step up its communication efforts,” he added.

Mr Gakpo, whose research at the GES Center focuses on how communication affects the deployment of agricultural biotechnologies, noted that the National Biosafety Act 2011, which governs the NBA’s activities, urges the NBA to prioritize to proactive communication.

“Section 4(d) of Act 831 says that one of the functions of the authority is ‘to promote public awareness, participation and education in relation to the activities of the authority under this Act’,” he said.

“Section 41(2) also provides that the Authority shall publish notices of final decisions on applications made under this Act in the Government Gazette and in the electronic and print media,” he explained.

Mr Gakpo said the law passed by Parliament recognizes the important role of the media in helping disseminate information about genetic technologies and that the authority must do more in that regard.

“I am not saying that the Biosafety Authority is shirking its responsibility to communicate. Because I have seen officials of the authorities doing media interviews and other similar communication activities.

“But I’m just saying they need to do more. And above all, they need to be proactive instead of always fighting back,” he added.

Cecilia Lubanga, communications specialist at the Office of the Senate in Kenya, also told the webinar that the field of science communication is rapidly changing and actors in the sector need to be aware of the latest developments.

“Science communication is a rapidly evolving field, driven by technological advances, changes in societal attitudes and the effective dissemination of complex scientific information to diverse audiences,” she said.

INDEMNIFICATION: The views, comments, opinions, contributions and statements of readers and contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policies of Multimedia Group Limited.