Author: Jacqueline Ignatova
A particularly controversial part of this new Green Revolution is the introduction of genetically modified (GM) seeds. Globally, the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has generated a heated and highly polarized debate. In Ghana, however, it took several years after the passage of the 2011 Biosafety Act for the public contestation over GM seeds to intensify. (The Biosafety Act is the legislation that enabled the introduction of GMOs into Ghana). In February 2015, a NGO, Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), filed a lawsuit against the National Biosafety Authority and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in order to halt the commercialization of GMOs. FSG’s position on GMOs is that they constitute a threat to public and environmental health as well as to the socio-economic wellbeing of farmers. With the support of a PSE grant, I was able to conduct field research in Ghana on the current court case and the status of the field trials of transgenic crops in Northern Ghana. Despite the lawsuit, the confined field trials of transgenic cowpea, cotton, and rice have continued as scientists and regulators argue that this constitutes a scientific study, not a commercial activity.
During my three weeks in Ghana, I have had the opportunity to conduct interviews with agricultural research scientists, biosafety regulators, biotechnology advisors and advocates, Food Sovereignty Ghana, the Convention Peoples’ Party (who has provided support for FSG and is also opposed to GMOs), and officials within both the U.S. State Department and the Ghanaian government. The research supported by the PSE grant is a follow-up to dissertation fieldwork I conducted between January 2012 and March 2013.
Jacqueline Ignatova is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park. She was a recipient of the 2014-2015 PSE Graduate Research and Travel Grant, which supports socio-environmental research at UMD.