Friday, September 18, 2015

Biosafety and Biotechnology in Ghana: Journalists and Scientists must work as partners in development

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath
Some selected Ghanaian Editors and Scientists who participated in a forum
The wisdom of our ancestors is reflected in this simple proverb that says:  “One tree does not make a forest!”
Do know why the Master Jesus Christ constituted a group of people known as his disciples before embarking on his earthly mission about 2000 years ago? And out of the twelve apostles four of them could be characterized in modern parlance as journalists or reporters. They were John, Luke, Mark and Matthew. Thus the gospel in the Bible can be said to be the reportage of these disciples.
Value of reporters
Since that time, and all over the world, without reporters hardly could some official activities of Kings, Governors, Presidents, or Heads of State, or Prime Ministers, or Chief Executive Officers etc. have been known to the general public, let alone the future generations. That is why journalism is referred to as the first draft of history. In fact, some historians just collate and collect what journalists had published in the past and modify them to be called history. That explains why journalists or reporters must not be taken for granted in the scheme of things. And any world leader who neglects reporters does so at his or her own doom.
On Saturday, September 5, 2015, Ghana’s Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation made history that must be put on record for posterity. On that day, that Ministry managed to uproot over 20 editors from various media houses where they were glued to their editorial thrones in newsrooms in Accra. At least for 24 hours the editors were transplanted at the Multi-functional Conference Centre at the Aqua Safari Resort at Ada in the Great Accra Region.
What was fascinating about that feat was the fact that the Ministry brought these veteran editors face to face with some Ghanaian and Burkinabe scientists who were also dragged out from their laboratories where their eyes were riveted to their microscopes. These two diametrically opposed professionals and other stakeholders drawn from the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) and Food and Drug Authority (FDA) were brought together under the banner of Editors Forum to brainstorm on issues of Biosafety of modern Biotechnology.
Biodiversity and Biosafety
For purposes of this article, biodiversity simply signifies the variety of life on earth in all its forms. Biotechnology is not only applicable in the field of medicine but also in the field of agriculture or food processing. Biosafety is the application of knowledge, technique and equipment to prevent personal, laboratory and environmental exposure to infectious agents. For now I do not want to use any complicated scientific terminologies to confuse myself and my readers. So let me pause for some breath!
The principal objective of that special editors forum among other things was to provide the editors with some practical, evidence-based information on biosafety; expose them to some authoritative sources of information about biosafety with particular reference to Genetically Modified (GM) crops with all the misconceptions and misrepresentations associated biotechnology. Trust the journalists! And at this forum, it was not novice reporters but editors who in their respective news rooms have the power to decide whether stories  written by their reports about GM crops be it maize, fruits or beans should be published in the first place.
Naturally, when the scientists finished with their presentations, they should expect these veteran editors not to swallow hook, line and sinker everything they had presented. In fact, the experts were virtually ambushed and were subjected to bombardment of questions from all angles. One editor confessed that as for him whenever his reporters submit some stories about genetically modified foods and he did not understand, he did not hesitate to throw such stories in the dust bins. One scientist also confessed that he did not trust some media personnel who were wont to misrepresent scientific findings. Consequently, he always closed his doors to reporters who nose around to know what he was doing in his laboratory.
Gap between Scientists and Journalists
The forum became a genuine confessional corner as if  it was  in the Catholic Cathedral where everybody opened up to speak their minds and expressed their sentiments about one another. So, while it appears some scientists have the tendency to look down on journalists, some journalists also have no regard for some scientists whom they consider as arrogant. This state of affair has created a gap between scientists and journalists. But the forum became an eye opener for all.  
No doubt one of the topics discussed was:  “The Science – Media disconnect; Bridging the gap: “Scientists say the media are sensational; the media say scientists talk gibberish; how can we bridge the gap for impactful reportage on scientific issues?”  This particular topic was moderated by a lady journalist who did not mince words at all about how some scientists treat journalists as non-entities. This session became so exciting that almost every editor present was given the opportunity to express his or her view about this gap between scientists and journalists and the way forward. 
ECOWAS Experience
This author also gave his views and reminded the forum that the gap between scientists and journalists is not only restricted to Ghana. He recalled that in 2011, ECOWAS organized a training workshop for Science journalists in Abuja, Nigeria where he served as a resource person. At that workshop, it came to light that there existed poor relationship between scientists, research institutions and journalists.
It was noted that that poor relationship tended to affect effective communication between scientists and journalists.  It was therefore, resolved that only effectively communicated knowledge could benefit individuals and equipped them with power and skills to put that knowledge into practical application for the development not only West Africa but the entire African Continent. Consequently an African Federation of Science Journalists, (AFSJ), was set up to collaborate with UNESCO, ECA, ECOWAS and AU for scientific and technological advancement of Africa using journalists as conveyor belts.
Partners in development
It is against this background that Ghana’s Ministry of Environment ought to be commended for initiating the editors forum to expose these media gurus to the work of National Biosafety Authority. Media practitioners do not necessarily need to be scientists to communicate science related issues of national importance for the advancement of the nation. While Scientists can do better scientific research works, Journalists too, can communicate better for the understanding of the masses because they are trained in mass communication. So, therefore, both Scientists and Journalists must work as partners in development for the prosperity of Ghana.

·         The author works with Information Services Department (ISD), Accra

Thursday, September 3, 2015

 Global Human Development Sustainability:  Men must step aside for Women to take over the administration of the United Nations in 2016

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Dr. Joyce R. Aryee, Proposed Ghana's nominee 
for First Woman UN Secretary-General 2016

A very simple Ghanaian proverb admonishes: “A child who does not want his mother to sleep will not also sleep either.”
United Nations @70
Do you know that come October this year, the United Nations (UN) would have clocked 70 solid years as a world body? It was precisely on October 24, 1945 that the UN officially came into being. Records show that the term “United Nations” was coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was first used in the Declaration by United Nations of January 1, 1942 during the Second World War, “when representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.” The forerunner of the United Nations, an organization conceived in similar circumstances during the  First World War, and established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles "to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security." 
Source: (
Amazingly, 70 years ago when the UN came into existence, world population was only about 1.5billion. Today, as of July 2015, the number of human beings who are eating salt on our beloved Mother Earth is over 7.349 billion. Despite this astronomical jump in the world population over the past 70 years period, the tiny number of the five so-called permanent members with veto powers, namely China, France, the then Soviet Union, now Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, remains intact. These global apostles of democracy are still perching on their veto thrones like “legba” or statues without an eye blinking.  
From 1997-2007, When the Ghanaian-born internationally acclaimed civil servant of evergreen wisdom, Dr. Kofi Annan served humanity as UN Secretary-General, all efforts he made in collaboration with other well-meaning nations like Canada, Japan, Germany, Brazil, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore  and others to reform the world body proved futile. I wonder whether the attitude of these undemocratic permanent members of the UN is different from that of Mugabes of our time.
Give women the chance to rule the world
The object of this article is to join hands with women advocates and all men of good will who think the First Woman Secretary-General of the UN must be elected into office. It has been observed that the ship of globalization under the captainship of men, if care is not taken, the entire world would soon be navigated into an abyss of some unknown ocean. Just take a glance at the fate of hundreds of poor fellow human beings referred to as “illegal immigrants” including women and children who are currently perishing in deep sea between African and Europe on daily basis.

 Civilized European coastal guards are standing and staring with glee while helpless women and children are being drowned in ravaging sea waves. The other day a Syrian mother with her baby firmly grasped unto her bosom was being carried away by the undulating waves. And men in uniforms watched this poor mother perish with her baby. If this is not the apogee of the cruelty of men then I don’t know what it is. Men seem to be atrocious, brutish, callous, insensitive, sadistic and simply wicked by nature. Look at how ISIS terrorists are slaughtering fellow human beings including journalists like fowls. Look at how Boko Haram terrorists are using innocent girls as suicide bombers! And all the guns, bombs and chemical weapons are being manufactured by so-called civilized nations. And all these atrocities are committed mostly by men.   

Consequently, the time has come for men to give way to women to govern the world. God or Allah in his own wisdom created women in a special biological fashion. The secret of receiving, conceiving, preserving and giving birth to human species is hidden only in the womb of a woman. No woman or mother of sane mind in sound body will ever conceal a bomb on the body of her daughter to be blown into pieces. It is only sadistically psychopathic men who can perpetuate such atrocities be it in the name of religion or politics.

   Thus, it is the considered view of this author that for human development to be sustained wicked men must step aside for loving, considerate and sympathetic women to take over the global governance of the UN for the next 70 years. If women are given equal chance of 70 years to rule the world and after that period, still  poverty, corruption, discrimination, intimidation, oppression and suppression of man by man do not cease then men can assume their murderous ways of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction to create “illegal immigrants” again  for the rest of the world!
UNDP Human Development Report 2014
For purposes of this article, it is relevant to cite some portion of the United Nations Development Programme (UND) Human Development Report 2014 for illustration. The well-researched Report published on UNDP website ( is not only informative but educative and instructive. The full title of the Report is: “Human Development Report 2014 - Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerability and Building Resilience”.

 Coincidentally, the summary report was signed by an Administrator who happens to be a woman by the name Helen Clarke. The opening paragraph reads: “The 2014 Human Development Report – Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerability and Building Resilience – looks at two concepts which are both interconnected and immensely important to securing human development progress.”

The second paragraph of the Report reminds mankind thus: “Since the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) first global Human Development Report (HDR) 1990, most countries have registered significant human development. This year’s Report shows that overall global trends are positive and that progress is continuing.” Then it quickly added: “Yet, lives are being lost and livehoods or development undermined by natural or human-induced disasters and crises.” Every sustainable-development-minded person on this planet of environmental havoc and chaotic climate must read that UNDP Report.
Appeal to UN Secretary – General

There is a popular Ghanaian adage that: “If you want to talk to God, you must speak into the air.” Thus, this ordinary citizen of the world wishes to humbly appeal to the current UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon to make history for which posterity would be eternally grateful to him. He should prepare the grounds and ensure that after him, the world body will gracefully elect the First ever Woman UN Secretary-General to steer the affairs of that famous intergovernmental body. If I ever had the chance to speak to the UN Secretary General, I would have whispered into his ears that the election of the First Woman UN Secretary-General should not be left in the hands of the undemocratic dictators of the five permanent members of the UN.

Rather, I would suggest that all 194 or so member states of UN should nominate one woman each from their respective countries. Then at the next UN General Assembly, all Heads of State should give ten reasons why their nominees should be elected as the First Woman UN Secretary-General. Then all Heads of State present should cast secret ballots to elect the next Secretary- General. The nominee who would get 50 plus one vote becomes the First Woman UN Secretary General. Simple! For Ghana, I take the liberty to propose Madam Joyce R. Aryee as my country’s nominee for the post of First Woman UN Secretary-General. Any seconder?

The author works with the Information Services Department (ISD), Accra.<>