THE AGONY OF GHANA’S AGRICULTURE

 

Increase in food production in Africa has been achieved by extended cropland, but population pressure, competition between crops and livestock for space and declining soil fertility are forcing African countries to ramp up investment in fertilizers. Secondly, food security in Ghana is threatened by the over 90% of farmers practicing slash and burn, and subsistence farming with reduced supports.

 

While some are promoting organic farming, most experts agrees to conventional farming that is chemical fertilization is necessary to a greater extent or lesser or a combination of both. Opinion differs but we all agree to produce more on the same amount of land without damaging the resources base of the land. In recent statistical figure, the world population has been estimated to reach 7.4 billion, massively depleting fish and livestock species at an alarming rate, which food production declining heavily across the globe and Ghana is no exception.

 

The concept of organic farming techniques involves the cultivation of crops and animals in recycling of farm waste. This could include the recycling of timber waste, sea waste and human waste to produce quality food crops. Organic technology allows the free interaction of earth, plants and animals including insects. However the threat to organic is biotechnology which encourages conventional and GMO practices. If the technologies we employ into agriculture are not looked at carefully, we would be looking at global hunger, mass unemployment and chronic poverty and mass war over natural resources like forests and water bodies, fertile lands and food hubs. Ghana cannot be left out of reviving her agricultural system that marries environment, other species of lives and people together.

 

Farm practices has been gradually replaced with the use of weedicide/ herbicide to control weeds, chemical fertilizer to enrich the soil and pesticide and insecticide to control pest and diseases in addition to the use of hybrid seeds to save time, labour and costs to farmers. Farmers have on their own become reluctant to allow free interaction of species of animals to species of plants that exists within our environment. If the Bible mentions that land should be use for sixth years but for the seventh year the land should be rested, then we must be missing something in the current practice in agriculture (Exodus 23:10).

 

Recently, scientists has discovered and introduced new technology into agriculture and medicine e.t.c which has been termed biotechnology. Some of this research or technology comes with dire consequences, as conventional farming has brought in high levels of chemical toxicity, heavy metals, salt and minerals in our food supplies coupled to unimaginable consequences of GM food to species of animals that consumes it.

 

Biotechnology refers to any technique that uses living organisms, or parts of these organisms. Such techniques are used to make or modify products for a practical purpose. Modern medicine, agriculture, and industry make use of biotechnology on a large scale. Agriculture of any type has an impact on the environment, on the food production and on the consumers. Genetic engineering may accelerate the damaging effects of agriculture, so also is the same impact as conventional agriculture and contribute to more unsustainable practices.

 

Growing genetically modified or conventional plants in the field has raised concern for the potential transfer of genes from cultivated species to their wild relatives. However, many food plants are not native to the areas in which they are grown. Locally, they may have no wild relatives to which genes could flow. Moreover, if gene flow occurs, it is unlikely that the hybrid plants would thrive in the wild, because they would have characteristics that are advantageous in agricultural environments only.

 

A controversy has arisen about whether certain genetically modified plants (which are insect resistant because they carry the Bt gene) could harm not only insect pests but also other species such as the monarch butterfly. In the field, no significant adverse effects on non-target species have so far been observed. Nonetheless, continued monitoring for such effects is needed.

 

Genetically modified crops may have indirect environmental effects as a result of changing agricultural or environmental practices. However, it remains controversial whether the net effect of these changes will be positive or negative for the environment. For example, the use of genetically modified insect-resistant Bt crops is reducing the volume and frequency of insecticide use on maize, cotton and soybean. Yet the extensive use of herbicide and insect resistant crops could result in the emergence of resistant weeds and insects

 

It is extremely unlikely that genes may transfer from plants to disease-causing bacteria through the food chain. Nevertheless, scientists advise that genes which determine resistance to antibiotics that are critical for treating humans should not be used in genetically modified plants. Some genetically modified crops have been engineered to include genetic material from BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural bacterium found in soil. Inserting the Bt genes makes the plant itself produce bacterial toxins, thereby killing the insects that could destroy it. The first GM crop carrying Bt genes, potatoes, were approved in the United States in 1995. Today there are Bt versions of corn, potatoes and cotton. Roundup on crop such as soybeans, corn, canola, sugar beets, cotton and alfalfa have been manipulated to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s broadleaf weed killer Roundup.

 

In agriculture the two non-organic traits are herbicide resistance and pesticide production which are now pervasive in America agriculture and in particular Ghana’s agriculture. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service says that, in 2010, as much as eighty six (86) percent of corn, up to ninety (90) percent of all soybeans and nearly ninety three (93) percent of cotton were GM varieties.

 

Ten Reasons to refuse Conventional farming & GMO

Lately, it has been recorded at various health centers and environmentalists are reporting on the increase clinical health and allergy to degrading environmental conditions respectively. On health and environmental issues these are some of the undermentioned situations we have on hand and to deal with as employs GMO and conventional farming technics-

 

Conventional farming and GMO on human health

Diseases and illnesses that has of recent increased with conventional farming & GMO came into our food system-

  • Autism
  • Diabetic
  • Hypertension/ High blood pressure
  • Fibroid
  • Child abnormalities/ babies born with congenital defects
  • Infertility/ sterilization in male and female
  • Anemia
  • Food allergies
  • Skin disease
  • Tumour of all kinds in all body parts
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Erectile dysfunctioning and loss of sperm volume count
  • Reduce enzymes reactions leading to accumulation of toxin in our body
  • Imbalance hormonal production
  • Physical impairment
  • Wasting diseases
  • Hole- In- Heart among new born or children
  • Hunger among our population, today over 2.8 billion risk hunger in the world.

 

Harms to our environment and other species of animals

Other problems of conventional farming and GMO technologies brings-

  • Destruction of our fertile land and increase barren lands.
  • Killed earthworms, termites, snail in our soil.
  • Killed bees that pollinate our crop.
  • Polluted our water bodies, killing our fishes and poisoning water for safe drinking.
  • Increases global warming and climate change due to poor sequestration of soil carbon.
  • Increase environmental and natural disasters.

 

GMOs are unhealthy

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients. They cite animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Human studies show how genetically modified (GM) food can leave material behind inside us, possibly causing long-term problems. Genes inserted into GM soy, for example, can transfer into the DNA of bacteria living inside us, and that the toxic insecticide produced by GM corn was found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses.

 

Numerous health problems increased after GMOs were introduced in 1996. The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% in just 9 years; food allergies skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others are on the rise. Although there is not sufficient research to confirm that GMOs are a contributing factor, doctors groups such as the AAEM tell us not to wait before we start protecting ourselves, and especially our children who are most at risk.

 

GMOs contaminate forever

GMOs cross pollinate and their seeds can travel. It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool. Self-propagating GM pollution will outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste. The potential impact is huge, threatening the health of future generations. GMO contamination has also caused economic losses for organic and non-GMO farmers who often struggle to keep their crops and lands pure.

 

GMOs increase herbicide use

Most GM crops are engineered to be “herbicide tolerant”, they defy deadly weed killer. Monsanto, for example, sells Roundup Ready crops, designed to survive applications of their Roundup herbicide. Between 1996 and 2008, US farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMOs. Overuse of Roundup results in “superweeds,” resistant to the herbicide. This is causing farmers to use even more toxic herbicides every year. Not only does this create environmental harm, GM foods contain higher residues of toxic herbicides. Roundup, for example, is linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer.

 

Genetic engineering creates dangerous side effects

By mixing genes from totally unrelated species, genetic engineering unleashes a host of unpredictable side effects. Moreover, irrespective of the type of genes that are inserted, the very process of creating a GM plant can result in massive collateral damage that produces new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, and nutritional deficiencies.
Government oversight is dangerously lax

Most of the health and environmental risks of GMOs are ignored by governments’ superficial regulations and safety assessments. The reason for this tragedy is largely political. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, doesn’t require a single safety study, does not mandate labeling of GMOs, and allows companies to put their GM foods onto the market without even notifying the agency. Their justification was the claim that they had no information showing that GM foods were substantially different. But this was a lie. Secret agency memos made public by a lawsuit show that the overwhelming consensus even among the FDA’s own scientists was that GMOs can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects. They urged long-term safety studies. But the White House had instructed the FDA to promote biotechnology, and the agency official in charge of policy was Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney, later their vice president.


The biotech industry uses “tobacco science” to claim product safety

Biotech companies like Monsanto told us that Agent Orange, PCBs, and DDT were safe. They are now using the same type of superficial, rigged research to try and convince us that GMOs are safe. Independent scientists, however, have caught the spin-masters red-handed, demonstrating without doubt how industry-funded research is designed to avoid finding problems, and how adverse findings are distorted or denied.

 

Independent researches and reporting is attacked and suppressed

Scientists who discover problems with GMOs have been attacked, gagged, fired, threatened, and denied funding. The journal Nature acknowledged that a “large block of scientists . . . denigrate research by other legitimate scientists in a knee-jerk, partisan, emotional way that is not helpful in advancing knowledge.” Attempts by media to expose problems are also often censored.
GMOs harm the environment

GM crops and their associated herbicides can harm birds, insects, amphibians, marine ecosystems, and soil organisms. They reduce bio-diversity, pollute water resources, and are unsustainable. For example, GM crops are eliminating habitat for monarch butterflies, whose populations are down by 50% in the US. Roundup herbicide has been shown to cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths and endocrine disruptions, and organ damage in animals even at very low doses. GM canola has been found growing wild in North Dakota and California, threatening to pass on its herbicide tolerant genes on to weeds.

 

GMOs do not increase yields, and work against feeding a hungry world

Whereas sustainable non-GMO agricultural methods used in developing countries have conclusively resulted in yield increases of 79% and higher, GMOs do not, on average, increase yields at all. This was evident in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ 2009 report Failure to Yield, the definitive study to date on GM crops and yield.

 

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report, authored by more than 400 scientists and backed by 58 governments, stated that GM crop yields were “highly variable” and in some cases, “yields declined.” The report noted, “Assessment of the technology lags behind its development, information is anecdotal and contradictory, and uncertainty about possible benefits and damage is unavoidable.” They determined that the current GMOs have nothing to offer the goals of reducing hunger and poverty, improving nutrition, health and rural livelihoods, and facilitating social and environmental sustainability.
By avoiding GMOs, you contribute to the coming tipping point of consumer rejection, forcing them out of our food supply Because GMOs give no consumer benefits, if even a small percentage of us start rejecting brands that contain them, GM ingredients will become a marketing liability. Food companies will kick them out. In Europe, for example, the tipping point was achieved in 1999, just after a high profile GM safety scandal hit the papers and alerted citizens to the potential dangers. In the US, a consumer rebellion against GM bovine growth hormone has also reached a tipping point, kicked the cow drug out of dairy products by Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Dannon, Yoplait, and most of America’s dairies and also in China.

 

Four Reasons Why Organic Farming is cheaper

Organic still remains the best and the cheapest. However, during training of some farmers in rural Ghana on adopting organic farming technology and after training the farmer saw the sustainability of the environment and opportunities to diversify agriculture. These were the views of some participants of the training and field trials. That organic farming/ technology requires no expensive synthetic fertilizers, no expensive pesticide and no expensive herbicide and lastly organic farms uses less water.

 

The Myth verses the Truth of Conventional & GMO against Organic technology

  • They do not increase crop yield.
  • They increase pesticide use.
  • They create superweeds.
  • They have toxic allergenic effects on laboratory animals.
  • They cannot co-exist with non- GM crops.
  • They are not needed for good nutrition.
  • There are better ways to feed the world.
  • Conventional breeding is better than GM at producing crops with useful traits.
  • They are unprecise technology that will continue to deliver unpleasant surprises.
  • They are not about feeding the world but it’s about patented ownership of food supply chains.

 

In conclusion: Do we eat to live? Or, we live to eat? Eat organic food and eat well “Not all mistakes are tolerable, a mistake from a pilot or a surgeon would cost lives, so is our environment”

 

KWASHIE DARKUDZI B. Sc Animal Health (Hon) is the Operations Director of Darsfield EarthCare & Farm-Tech Foundation an agriculture in environment civil society in Ghana. He is a trainer of rural farmers in organic farming fruits and vegetables, sustainable farming such as agro-forestry, snail, mushroom, beekeeping and captive rearing of animals, aquaculture and agro-processing initiatives.

Contact. dvfarms1970@yahoo.co.uk, darsfoundationgh@gmail.com.

 

THE AGONY OF GHANA’S AGRICULTURE

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