GENETICALLY MODIFIED TOMATO AND ITS IMPACT ON GHANA'S ECONOMY
INTRODUCTION TO ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
Ghana and its agriculture industry:
Ghana once a British colony was called Gold Coast due to the abundance of gold. On March 6th 1957, Ghana gained its independence. Prior to being colonized, Ghana was part of the Mali Empire under the rule of a prominent chief called Sundiata in 1240 AD. The "Old Ghana" under this ruler was about 500miles north of the present day Ghana and it occupied the area between Rivers Senegal and Niger. (Ghana Web, 2009).
The present day Ghana is located on the West Coast of Africa (see Figure 1) and is ranked the eight (8th) largest out of sixteen African countries. Ghana also has the second (2nd) largest population in the Western part of Africa. It has an area of 238,540 square kilometers with a gross domestic product per capita of $2,200 according to 2003 estimate (Gocking, 2005). Ghana enjoys a tropical climate with two seasons - the wet and dry seasons which occurs May through September/October and November through April respectively.
Agriculture is a major contributor to Ghana's gross domestic product (GDP); which majority of the population depends on as a main source of livelihood. That is, it serves as both formal and informal employment for more than half of the Ghanaian population. According to CIA's World Factbook, agriculture makes about 37.3% of Ghana's GDP and export earnings; bringing in foreign exchange as a result. Therefore with the problems facing the agriculture industry, especially in the area of tomatoes cultivation there is a need for concern and immediate action.
INFORMATION ON GENTICALLY MODIFIED CROPS
The problems and challenges facing the agriculture industry both locally and internationally have prompted the use of biotechnology to address these issues. In both plants and animals, the application of biotechnology has been deem necessary and very important to solve these problems as they are very effective than the conventional application of chemicals.
The idea of Biotechnology involves modifying the breeding routine of plants genetically to aid in yield increase and also stability; which helps to improve pest and disease resistance and also to deal with the environmental/climatic situations such as drought and cold in different part of the world. Through this technology, nutritional value of food is enhanced (GreenFact, 2005).
Low yields in the agriculture industry in Ghana and other countries have prompted my prominent people to stand up for better agricultural practices aimed at increasing yields. Professor Walter Alhassan, a Consultant for African Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy Platform in his briefing during the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a US registered not for profit NGO in Ghana made a point about how the African continent wouldn't be able to meet the Millennium Development Goal of bringing the number of poor and hungry people to half of its current level by 2015 due to low levels of yield in the agricultural sector ("Ghana Business News", 2009). Through biotechnology, low cost and disease free planting materials for various crops such as cassava, tomato, plantain, potato and banana are developed. And this means developing countries like African countries would be able to feed their citizens (people).
According to the ISAAA report on Global Status of Biotech/GM crops, in 2006 out of 25 countries currently engaged actively in the cultivation of biotech crops 15 are developing countries and 10 are developed countries. 30 more have approved the import of biotech products for food and feed use. Among these countries Egypt, Burkina Faso, Bolivia, Brazil and Australia were the first five to commercialize their biotech crops in their countries. In total, the number of biotech crop farmers has increased from 1.3 million to 13.3 million in the 25 biotech crop countries between 1996 and 2008 which is a major achievement ("Ghana Business News", 2009).
Tomatoes being one of the important food commodities' in Ghana are consumed daily and are traded by a broad range of market participants. The country is barely able to cover demand during the rainy season, and in the dry season meeting demand is even a major problem. This is because the tomato growing sector in Ghana is characterized by low productivity, due to bad environmental conditions such as drought and lack of irrigation facilities, pests and diseases. Farmers having this situation in their hands deal with these stresses through the use of integrated pest management, as well as chemical pesticides to control the pests and diseases with no success. Hence the result is Ghana importing more tomatoes from Burkina Faso and Europe to help meet demand.
Due to the inability to march up with supply and demand, the market in Ghana and the economy has therefore been affected by competition from cheap subsidized tomatoes from Europe, Burkina Faso, etc. to feed the growing tomato industry. According to Steve Bradshaw, a BBC reporter, the issues facing the tomato industry in Ghana has resulted in the import of about 10,000 tonnes of processed tomatoes from Europe each year. (Bradshaw, 2009)
In the mist of all these challenges farmers, being the main employees of this sector are equally hurting as the entire economy of the country. The importance of looking for a long lasting solution therefore is very crucial to the survival of this industry; which makes the need of researching the feasibility of genetically modified tomato (GM tomato) in Ghana a major priority.
The purpose of this research is to look at some of the factors that would play a major role in Ghana's decision to switch from the indigenous tomato to GM tomato as a lasting solution to the problems faced by the tomato industry. These factors include the location and environmental conditions, cost and productivity, safety issues/concerns and last but not the least policies for necessary to drive this change.
LOCATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS
Cultivating any agricultural crop involves securing a favorable location which is close to the market and processing centers (industries). Access to a reliable transportation, thus road also plays a vital role in the choice of location. Environmental conditions/factors like location, also plays a major role in the feasibility of GM tomato.
Growing tomato in Ghana is not conducive in any location and environmental condition. Therefore tomato growing is predominantly found in the Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo region located in the central and upper east part of Ghana respectively (see Figure 2). Cultivation is favorable at these locations due to availability of rainfall, irrigation systems, wells and riverbeds. Source of water plays a major role in determining both the season of farming and the number of times farming is undertaken within the year; which averages to about three times according to the FAO/Italy agriculture development project conducted in 2005.
Many programs which are currently are in place to check these problems are still not yielding the fruitful results expected. According to an article by Ghana News Agency (GNA), in 2007, there is a collaborative intervention by the Trade and Investment for Competitive Export Economy, a branch of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ghana National Tomato Traders Association to provide a modern irrigation technology to tomato farmers in five communities in the Dormaa District located in the central region (see Figure 1) to help meet supply and demand throughout the year. The intervention is also aimed at seeking ready market for the produce.
Looking at the amount of money being invested in growing tomato in Ghana, choosing GM tomato would help minimize if not totally solve the problems faced by the tomato industry while reducing the cost of tomato production. This is because, with GM tomato engineered to last longer even under low water conditions and also to produce higher yields; it could also be cultivated in a broader location to cover other part of the country and also to processing centers. This there would also increase cultivation time to more than the current average of three times in a year.
COST AND PRODUCTIVITY
In considering the location and environmental conditions in cultivating GM tomato, the next factor to weigh on is cost and productivity which goes hand in hand with each other. Tomato cultivation as other crops according to the Ghana Ministry of Food and Agriculture's 2007 annual report is dominated by smallholder farmers with plots of land less than 1.5 hectares on average, which is most often rented lands. Due to prevailing traditional farming systems which constitute low application of technology, poor soil management and crop production, and also dependence on unpredictable rainfall productivity is generally low and volatile (The Ghanaian Chronicle, 2009).
The Ghana Science Association 2009 Journal published by Ghana Business News bring the point that assessing the actual cost effectiveness of GM tomato would involve years of monitoring the cultivation, the commercializing and marketing aspects of it. It goes on further to explain how in a given year, the yields of a GM crop and the pricing can vary tremendously; which can also be related to GM tomato. Therefore the supply and demand for the tomato is a determining factor to how the product is priced, how much is purchased by consumers and how much farmers obtain in terms of planned yield.
Nonetheless, the production/cultivation of GM tomato as other GM crops is more fruitful than traditional/conventional tomato. Some of these benefits as already mentioned come in the form of increased pest resistance and the ability to withstand extreme/hash weather conditions. Using GM tomato cultivating practices becomes more flexible; in the sense that less labor may be needed to produce the tomato, which would translate into savings for the farmers. But for this to occur, farms may have to be restructured over the long term, which will allow farms to accommodate these changes to the new growing practices ("Genetically modified foods", 2009). Therefore assessing the cost of the current way of producing tomato to the production of GM tomato, processing industry would be well supplied with raw materials which would maximize their output in order to compete better in the world market.
In as much as cost and productivity is important, the issue of safety and environment is also a major issue when it comes to agriculture practices. Looking at the current practices involved in the cultivation of the conventional tomato, there is the rampant abuse of agrochemicals by most farmers which goes a long way to affect the entire country/nation. Excessive use of fertilizers, for example, lead to the contamination of groundwater with nitrate, rendering it unfit for consumption by humans or livestock (Spearks , 2009); which is not healthy for the environment and the safety of farmers.
Since GM tomato is genetically engineered to resist pests and diseases, it greatly reduces the use of chemicals needed for protection. This therefore reduces pollution of the environmental and at the same time improving the health of farm and industry workers in comparison to the indigenous tomato.
GM tomato like other GM crops having all the attributes/advantages demanded by farmers and for better development in the agriculture industry, the widespread adoption depends on institutional factors. For instance, the technology fee reflected in the seed price is amenable to policy formulation which would also affect directly, the distribution of benefits.
The provision of GM tomato and the power of control would be the next task to consider in adopting this technology. This is because, institutional and property right arrangements would play a major role. Therefore both the public and private sectors would be involved. With the public sector being responsible for GM tomato development, as this would entail the establishment of basic infrastructure, collaboration with other countries, and importation of material for initial testing. Whiles the private sector would play a dominant role in seed multiplication and distribution.
Agriculture of any type has an impact on the environment; meaning genetically engineered tomato may accelerate the damaging effects of agriculture, have the same impact as conventional agriculture, or contribute to more sustainable practices. Although science cannot declare any technology completely risk free genetically engineered tomato can reduce some issues associated with conventional tomato; but would also introduce new challenges that must be addressed.
Nonetheless, the cultivation of GM tomato gives the tomato industry in Ghana the best opportunity for long term economic development which will cut down importation of tomatoes from other countries and enough to feed the processing plants. Farmers would have the peace of mind of cultivating tomatoes without most of the challenges associated with indigenous tomatoes.
But genetic engineering is a very powerful tool whose role should be carefully evaluated. It is therefore important to understand how biotechnology - particularly genetic engineering works by taking into account the factors of location and environmental conditions, cost and productivity, safety issues/concerns and also policies that would drive this change to a success.
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