GHANA – Cowpea farmers in Ghana have expressed their readiness to adopt BT Cowpea seed, a genetically modified crop developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI).
The farmers have appealed to the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to hasten its regulatory activities to approve the BT Cowpea seed for commercial cultivation in the country.
They were speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) at Nyankpala after visiting a BT Cowpea seed varietal trial field in the Tolon District of the Northern Region to observe the performance of the field in comparison to the existing cowpea seeds they cultivated.
The BT Cowpea has been developed by CSIR-SARI, and was approved last year by the NBA for environmental release. However, it is still awaiting the NBA’s final approval for the seed to be commercially available to farmers for cultivation.
CSIR-SARI has been working on the BT Cowpea seed for over 10 years now. Following the approval for its environmental release, ongoing varietal release trials are being conducted in specific areas of the country before its official approval.
BT Cowpea seed is a superior variety in that, its adoption will mean a reduction in the rate at which farmers will spray their farms with pesticides from eight times to two times.
This method will prevent up to 80% of pest damage on cowpea farms and increase yield by up to 20 times.
Mr Adam Fuseini, a cowpea farmer who has been farming the crop for 5 years, told the GNA that he got only up to three bags of cowpea from an acre farm despite spraying pesticides eight times before harvesting.
“We are suffering a lot. I spend a lot of money in cultivating cowpea seeds, but despite my efforts, I do not make a profit upon harvest,” he said.
“Because of persistent spraying using chemicals, I feel some health problems. We are appealing to the government to approve the BT Cowpea seed for us to increase our yields so that we can feed the entire country.”
Currently, demand for cowpea in Ghana stands at 167,000 metric tons but only 57,000 metric tons is produced locally with the rest imported from other countries.
This is a clear indication of the crucial need for the development of the BT Cowpea seed to boost local production and meet and surpass demand thereby necessitating export to other countries to earn revenue.
Professor Marian Quain, Deputy Director-General of CSIR, joined the farmers and scientists from CSIR-SARI, and the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Ghana, to visit the field.
She stated that the farmers were justified in their request for expedited approval for the commercialization of the BT Cowpea seed in the country.
“There are so many processes you must go through before you can regulize the already approved seed, and these are based on Ghanaian laws and regulations,” Professor Mariam explained.
According to a research article published by Frontiers, the evaluation and review process is rigorous and includes a thorough examination of environmental, food, and feed safety data.
This process is conducted in accordance with the Biosafety Acts, implementing regulations, and, in certain instances, other applicable legal instruments.