Genetically Modified Rice On Trial At Nobewam Since April 2013

A Genetically Modified Rice which has been on trial at a confined environment at Nobewam in the Ejisu/Juaben Municipality of Ashanti since April 2013 is expected to be released to farmers upon approval by the National Biosafety Committee. The Genetically Modified Rice under trial has proved to be nitrogen, water use efficient and salt tolerant is a project being undertaken by the Crops Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research at Fumesua in Ashanti. Correspondent Thomas Nsowah-Adjei was there for Radio Ghana. The partners in the project are the African Agricultural Technology Foundation in Kenya, Atadia Biosciences in the US and the National Cereals Research Institute in Nigeria. In order to make the outcome of the research experiment secure and safe for public consumption, the field is confined and protected from human and animal interference such that apart from the research scientists and the staff, no foreign interference including birds is allowed into the confined environment. The Confined Field Trial rice which is ready for harvest involve rice plants that have been genetically modified or transformed to utilize nitrogen efficiently while others have three stack genes developed to do well on drought environment, salty soil, and lack of fertilizer nitrogen. The aim is to help rice farmers in Ghana and other developing countries in Africa and Asia with rice varieties that can withstand the three stresses and climate in an effort to address food insecurity. A Plant Breeder and a Principal Investigator of the Project, Dr Maxwell Asante noted that the purpose was to research into GM rice that can perform well under nitrogen fertilizer levels that are lower than the recommended rate and give at least 15 percent yield advantage over the non GM version of the rice. He said the identified rice when confirmed shall be recommended to the National Biosafety Committee to allow it to be grown by farmers after testing. Dr Asante said when the approval is given the genes that make the GM Rice nitrogen-use efficient will then be transferred to other popular varieties in Ghana through conventional breeding methods. The Director of the CRI, Dr Mrs. Stella Ennin said there is nothing frightening about GMOs. What is significant about GMOs is that they improve upon varieties of existing crops to enhance production and subsequently address food insecurity in Ghana.