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First Genetically modified cowpea in Ghana

  • Published
    20th Jul, 2022
Context

GM crops represent a potentially important tool for the Ghana’s food security strategy and harnessing it is a challenge now for many.

What is Cowpea?

  • Cowpea, a black-eyed pea in some parts of the world – is a major source of protein in Ghana and the rest of the sub-continent.
  • It is a staple and is integral to Ghana’s food security.
  • Ghana is the fifth largest producerof cowpea in Africa.
  • Especially in the northern part of Ghana, where it is second to groundnut in terms of area cultivated.
  • Farmers of the area face many challenges, including an array of pests.
  • The GM cowpea has been genetically engineered to resist the ‘Maruca pod borer’- the major pest in the region.
  • The GM resistance will help decrease the amount of insecticide farmers have been using to control pests and increase yields.
  • Insecticides are known to be deleterious to human health, but their use is on the rise throughout Africa.

About Maruca pod borer

  • Maruca vitrata is a pan-tropical insect pest of leguminous crops like pigeon pea, cowpea, mung bean and soybean.
  • Its common names include the maruca pod borer, bean pod borer, soybean pod borer, mung moth, and the legume pod borer.
  • The species was first described by Johan Christian Fabricius in 1787.
  • It can cause losses of 20–80% on the harvests of cowpeas.
  • Its feeding sites on plants are flower buds, flowers and young pods.


What are the hurdles to commercialise it in Africa?

  • The complex partnerships in developing GM crops and ownership rights.
  • The appropriateness of the technology.
  • Pricing and accompanying intellectual property rights.
  • The Ghanaian government’s ability to regulate GM seeds and crops.
  • GM cowpea could cost as much as 50% more than conventional seed.
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