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Experts allay fears on genetically modified foods


… Says agricultural biotechnology remains a solution to food scarcity.

Experts have said that deploying biotechnology in Agriculture  through genetically modified crops  remained the easiest way to address food scarcity in the face of geometrically growing population of the country and the challenges posed by Covid 19 pandemic.

Speaking at a one day training organised for Science and Technology reporters in Lagos  by the National Biotechnology Development Agency in partnership with Open Forum For Agricultural Biotechnology Development In Africa, OFAB ,  the stakeholders allayed the fears of the people on the health implications of  genetically modified crops pointing out that there are so many challenges that cannot  be  resolved using the conventional farming hence the need to deploy Agricultural Biotechnology to address the challenges of food scarcity.

Agricultural biotechnology is a range of tools, including traditional breeding techniques, that alter living organisms, or parts of organisms, to make or modify products; improve plants or animals; or develop microorganisms for specific agricultural uses. 

In agricultural biotechnology, genetic engineering has enabled the production of crops that are able to grow in non-ideal soil or in dry conditions. … In addition, they have been engineered to be resistant to pests, which allows farmers to use less pesticide.

It also represents one tool used to address some micronutrient deficiency in resource-poor countries, where staple crops  have low levels of micronutrients, persistent drought, flood caused by climate change as well as pestilence which affects storage.

Experts believe that deploying biotechnology in  modern day Agriculture takes care of farmer’s challenges and have more nutritious food.

The country Coordinator of Open Forum On Agriculture Biotechnology, OFAB, Nigeria, Dr Rose Gidado said malnutrition and food scarcity remained a challenge in Africa including Nigeria, pointing out the activities of boko haram, geometrical increase in population, climate change remained a challenge and combining different types of modern Technology can deliver crop traits, insect resistance, disease resistance, stress tolerance, increase storage and improve nutrition.

Dr Gidado said Nigeria has all it takes to apply modern technology  hence the need to facilitate the biosafety bill.

In a presentation entitled Addressing Agricultural Challenges in Africa Using GMOs, the Project Manager TELA Maize, African Agricultural Technology Foundation,Nairobi Kenya ,Dr Sylvester Oikeh decried increased anti GMO in Africa with efforts to stop small holder farmers from growing GMOs.

The Communication and Advocacy Officer at the African Seed Trade Association. AFSTA,  Mr Aghan Daniel presented a paper entitled “Why editors must work with seed companies to sensitise the masses on GMOs in Nigeria’

Mr Aghan pointed out that today ,  the seed business is complex, requiring long term product pipeline planning and development, connecting to markets where customers and competition are not obvious and made possible by efficient seed production, processing, distribution, promotion and marketing systems.

For editors to fully understand certified seed production and that is where GMOs fall, it is important to understand the process of producing seed ,  they  editors must look at the bigger picture and help journalists to write in a way that correctly portrays the methodology of introduction of GMOs in Africa. 

“”My eight year experience working with seed companies show that what the farmer and common man read is that the acceptance of GMOs is a death knell to conventional crops., the writing that we have portrays GMO seeds are all about the terminator technology. And so I still recommend that editors work closely with seed companies to provide them with up to date information on GMO seeds.” he said.

Some renowned and award winning journalists from African countries including Nigeria spoke on their experiences ,  the importance of applying Biotechnology in Agriculture , advised up coming science reporters to always separate myths from facts and emphasized on the need for media houses to establish a functional science desk in the news room.

 The Acting Director General of  National Biotechnology Development Agency, Professor, Alex Akpa said that no nation has been able to develop without integrating science and technology into its development agenda and that is the path Nigeria is following now, he added that the era of hoe and cutlass farming is over and the country  must adjust to current realities.

“”As a nation we must be conscious of our environment. We are acknowledged as the most travelled people in the world, superstore have started establishing their chains in the country. All the advanced countries of the world today have been eating genetically modified foods (GMOs) for over two decades and there has not been any report of adverse impact on health or environment.””  he said

 The Director General of National Biosafety Management Agency Dr Rufus Ebegba who charged the journalists to demystify science in their reportage said risk assessment of genetically modified foods remained a major priority of the agency to ensure safety.

High point of the one day training with the theme, The role of Editors in Communicating Biotechnology In Nigeria was award of certificates to the participants.