YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Although genetically modified food is commonplace in the United States, it is still controversial in places such as the European Union, which possibly has the most stringent regulations on the products in the world.
This debate over GM food is now taking place in Africa, and the Catholic Church is taking part – although Church leaders are disagreeing on which path to take.
In Ghana, the issue is at the forefront, since field trials on its first GM crop – the Bt cowpea, which is resistant to the pod-borer pest – have recently been completed.
“GMOs can help us deal with agricultural challenges, including the problems with food insufficiency,” said Gaston Kofi Hunkpe, a catechist with the Catholic Church who holds a degree in clinical biochemistry.
“So it’s a good thing we should adopt and implement and it will go a long way to help us … Countries using it testify that it is a good technology and so it should go across the whole world,” he said.
However, Samuel Zan Akologo, the head of Caritas Ghana, told Crux he doesn’t see GMOs as offering solutions to Ghana’s and Africa’s food problems, linking the technology to entrenched financial interests of those promoting it.
In 2013, the president of the Ghana Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu, said: “We believe that Ghana can achieve food sufficiency and even produce surplus food for export using the conventional means of farming.”
Akologo told Crux the position of the bishops has not changed.
“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference did not support the attempt by Government of Ghana to introduce GMOs by legislation through Parliament a few years ago. So, Bishop Osei-Bonsu may have spoken generally about the opinion of leaders of other churches. The position of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference has not changed,” he said.
He said the introduction of GM food could deal a fatal blow to the Decade of Family Farming recently launched by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) to run from 2019 to 2028.
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