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FG agencies assure Nigerians of safer biotech crops

Four agencies of the federal government have assured Nigerians of safe genetically modified crops in the country. The agencies are the National Biotechnology Management Agency…

Four agencies of the federal government have assured Nigerians of safe genetically modified crops in the country.

The agencies are the National Biotechnology Management Agency (NBMA), National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), and the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) along with the leadership of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN).

The Directors-General and Chief Executive Officers of the agencies met in Abuja to allay the public fear over the safety of biotech innovations during a world press conference on the application of GM technology in agriculture.

The DG of NABDA, Prof Abdullahi Mustapha, emphasised that “by harnessing the power of genetic engineering, Nigerian scientists and researchers have developed crops that are more resilient to pests, diseases, and adverse climate conditions, thus ensuring a more secure food supply for present and future generations.

“Some of these crops include Bt Cowpea, Bt Cotton and the newly released Tela Maize.”

He added that “by adopting and adapting genetically modified crops, Nigeria can increase food security, improve crop yields, and reduce the use of harmful pesticides.

“It is time to move past the fear and skepticism surrounding GMOs and embrace this cutting-edge technology for the benefit of all Nigerians.”

Also speaking, Dr Agnes Yemisi, the DG of NBMA, reckoned that the technology was thoroughly assessed, adding that “before granting approvals for any genetically modified organism (GMO), NBMA conducts rigorous risk assessments.

“These assessments evaluate potential risks to human health, the environment, and biodiversity. The process involves scientific experts who analyze data, conduct experiments, and assess the safety of the GMO in question.

“The NBMA considers factors such as allergenicity, toxicity, and unintended effects resulting from genetic modifications,” she said.

Dr Khalid Ishiak who is the acting DG of NASC, gave specific reasons why the technology adoption is crucial and also clarifies false claims about the technology.

“Today, our food system is facing countless challenges, climate change, the invasion of crop fields by ravaging pests and diseases (as we are currently seeing with the Tomato Ebola disease and the Ginger blight Epidemic), unpredictable rainfall patterns, drought, population explosion, as well as insecurity in farming communities, etc. All these conditions put together, has severely impacted on our national food system thereby worsening Nigeria’s food security situation, and resulting in sky rocketing food prices and food hyperinflation.

“The Seed Council will continue to promote and support the development of new varieties (Either through conventional means, hybridization, or the application of modern Biotechnology in the development of crop varieties with superior genetics) and support relevant agencies within the framework of its mandate to ensure that farmers get the best genetics for increased yield and productivity,” he said.

He described as “not correct“ the claims that seeds from harvested GM materials cannot be replanted, GM materials cannot be reused for other purposes including the claims that the materials cause cancer, adding that there “is no empirical evidence to support this.”

“GM seeds approved and released for Nigerian market were developed to address specific challenges such as the bollworm in cotton, Maruca in cowpea and armyworm in maize, all this after due consultations,” he said.

Adding his voice to the issues, the Executive Secretary of ARCN, Professor Garba Sharabutu, said the technologies which were developed by Nigerian researchers at the Agricultural Research Institutes are considered one of the safest because such technologies had gone through thorough processes.

The AFAN president, Kabiru Ibrahim, said he had visited many countries where these technologists were developed and adopted and has not seen any evidence of danger.

He therefore urged farmers in the country to adopt these to make more money in their efforts.

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