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‘Why European countries reject Kontagora, Potiskum beans’

A cross-section of stakeholders in the food production sector, have advised farmers in the country to ask questions from foreign organisations offering them seeds before…

A cross-section of stakeholders in the food production sector, have advised farmers in the country to ask questions from foreign organisations offering them seeds before planting in order to avoid a series of problems associated with food produce.

The stakeholders, under the aegis of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, who gave the advice during a sensitization training programme for farmers, said many genetically modified crops have scuttled agricultural systems in the country.

In an interview with journalists on the sideline of the training, a scientist and lecturer in the Department Microbiology, University of Abuja, Dr Casmir Ifeanyi, said that many farmers had laid series of complaints regarding the seeds they received for planting.

Dr Ifeanyi, who said he was not against technology of increasing the farmers’ yield, noted that despite introduction of GM crops, Nigeria is yet to achieve food production sufficiency, adding that majority of the farmers who cultivate beans could no longer export their produce to Europe due the seeds modification.

He said, “In fact, those who said they processed the beans have different experiences with it. Those who made akara or made other delicacies like moi moi with it have different experiences. Some said it changed colour, some said the taste was not good. The impact of GM is worrisome.

“The only information they give to uneducated farmers is that these are improved breeds or hybrids. We want a situation where the Nigerian government or those who are bringing this will have a full disclosure.

“If a farmer is going to receive seeds from you, he should be told that this is a genetically modified crop, and that it has been modified for this particular trait, and that these are the benefits and of course these are the risks.

“A country that used to be a leading exporter of beans to Europe has lost that large chunk of business line, and wanted to rebound, rather than do a root cause analysis of why our beans fell out of the European market, we didn’t consider that, we now went for a GM.

“Has GM rebooted Kontagora beans? Has it rebooted Potiskum beans? No! These were local beans varieties that were doing well and were being exported before we all scuttled our agricultural systems.”

He added that food borders on national security, urging that the policing or security of Nigeria or prevention of external aggression should not be left in the hands of foreigners.

He added, “Where are our local breeders? Because they do not get support, the enabling environments are not there? Some had once reported how our cocoa research facilities in Kogi State and across the length and breadth of the country have been shut down.

“Even if you go to the bio-technology agency (NABDA), their incubation centres in the states are all moribund. The point is, rather than channel the efforts at staying with what we were used to, what we had hitherto had capacity, we’re delving into areas where we have no capacity.

“How many functional research laboratories do we have in Nigeria that can venture into genetic modification? All we get is complete lock down products, when they are produced in high quality labs in other countries.

“In Kenya as we speak, there is a ban on GMOs. When they had this ban, they insisted that the companies (food and agricultural organisations) should come and set up laboratories in their country, where they can attempt the process of modification incumbent.

“Food borders on national security. For example, if we leave the policing or security of Nigeria or prevention of external aggression in the hands of foreign people, how safe is our country?

“The way forward is that the Nigerian government should put a moratorium on approvals for GMOs. For every GM that has been approved, the Nigerian government should support research for an update on their dissemination. How disseminated have they become?

“They should support research on post-release studies to find out how our farmers are faring with GM, and how it has made its way to our dining tables and our health-related issues.

“Also, when people come with a dossier for application, it should not just be stamped and approved. We should try to validate some of their claims in our own laboratories. The truth is, we do not have the capacity to compete in the GM technology of today. We need to build that capacity in our universities.”

On her part, the Coordinator Food Sovereignty Program, Friends of the Earth Africa, Ms Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, told journalists that efforts were in top gear to sensitize farmers on the effects of genetically modified food which caused a lot of diseases for Nigerians.

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