Nigerian Farmers Throw Weight Behind Biotechnology

By Gabriel Olawale
The National Vice President of the All Farmers Association
of Nigeria, Mr. Chris Onwuka , has condemned those
campaigning against biotechnology in the country as he
asked them to come up with scientific evidence to back
their stance.
Speaking at a Stakeholders meeting in Abuja recently, he
said “a group came and were telling us recently that
biotechnology is not good. I asked them to show us
scientific evidence but they could not,” he told other
stakeholders.
“The truth is that without biotechnology we cannot feed
ourselves. What we farmers need is more yield. We already
have a regulatory agency just as there is NAFDAC. It is their
job to tell us what is good and what is not good. They are
capable,” he added.
Also at the meeting were representatives of the academia
from all geopolitical zones of the country, International
Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Consumer
Protection Council, Genetics Society of Nigeria and the
Nigeria Agricultural Society among others.
Mr. Chris Onwuka said “as the reality of a rapidly
burgeoning population stares Nigeria in the face, the
arguments for and against the adoption of agricultural
biotechnology in Nigeria as a potential solution to stem a
likely food sufficiency crisis has been top on the agenda.
Onwuka said the unequal distribution of technology
between the developed world and developing countries
like Nigeria consistently make it unnecessary to compare
their priorities with ours.
“By 2030, Nigeria’s population will have crossed 250
million. Without a technological intervention, and with
continuous decrease in arable land due to urbanization,
desertification and erosion, farmers’ yield are only going to
decrease.
He added that the challenge before Nigeria is not just
about volume of food being produced but also about its
quality as well. “Nutritional efficiency is one of the hurdles
we are not likely going to be able to overcome even in the
medium to long term with conventional methods. Rural
populations depend on a restricted number of staple foods
because of their purchasing power and this keeps them
excluded from a host of nutrients that are important to
their physical health.
“These are some of the areas that companies like
Monsanto and agricultural research institutes in the
country are working to create nutrition enhanced seed
varieties as well as seeds with drought and pest tolerance
to help farmers maximize yields and ensure nutritional
balance even for the poorest in our communities.
He added that for the most part, those against the adoption
have driven their campaign mainly around calls for a
reversal of the Act establishing the National Biosafety
Management – an Act which the country spent almost a
decade to pass into law- ostensibly as a means to halt the
country’s biotechnology initiatives.
“Without an agency to regulate, every development in that
direction will certainly be truncated. In addition to the
NBMA, another entity that anti-GM campaigners have been
cast into the role of an enemy is the America-based
Agricultural company, Monsanto. ”
The farmer representative said sometimes it becomes
difficult for people to separate the fight against
biotechnology and the fight against Monsanto, “clearly,
some of these campaigners actually do not even know that
several research institutes across the country are seriously
engaged in biotechnology research and may soon have
their own seeds in the market.
While noting that some of the campaigners are appealing
to nationalist sentiments, Onwuka said some of the
important details many of the campaigners here in Nigeria
do not tell those they recruit to join them is that for
instance on June 29 this year, 107 Nobel Laureates, out of
whom only ten were not from the sciences, signed a
petition against the anti-GMO campaign.
“That singular event marked a significant in the decades
long call for a halting of agricultural biotechnology. In the
letter addressed to the United Nations and world leaders,
the Laureates described the campaign led mainly by Green
Peace, the multi-million dollar organisation spearheading
most of the global efforts against GMOs, “…a crime against
humanity”.
“It will be hard for all 107 to stake reputations they had
built over decades for a technology which they were not
sure was tested to meet all standards.
He added “their position is following series of
denouncements of the anti-GM movement by former key
figures from within Greenpeace itself.
A case in point is that of Patrick Moore, a founding member
of Greenpeace, who served for nine years as President of
Greenpeace Canada and seven years as a Director of
Greenpeace International.
“He has been a leader in the international environmental
field for over 30 years. Over time, he has come to realize
that the facts did not support many of the opposition
campaigns he had worked on through Greenpeace and is
now a staunch supporter of agricultural biotechnology.
Onwuka said another case is that of Stephen Tindale, who
was for six years the head of Greenpeace UK. In his words,
“The reason I’ve decided to speak out on GM now is
because I think it is necessary for people like me who’ve
opposed it to say things have changed… The overwhelming
majority of scientists think that it is safe. It is, in my view,
morally unacceptable to stand out against these new
technologies.”
Whilst they are quick to make reference to the report of the
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which
described Glyphosate (a chemical used against weeds in
GM farms) as a “probable” carcinogen, they never get
around to mentioning that the IARC is only one of 4 (four)
WHO programmes that are concerned with chemicals and
cancer research and is the only one out of the four to
classify glyphosate as such.
As a matter of fact, a joint Food & Agricultural Organisation
and WHO issued in May 2016 clearly stated that
“glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to
humans from exposure through the diet.”
As a matter of fact, several reports issued after the IARC
reports, notable among which are those from the German
Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (2015); the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (October 2015); The
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Nov 2015; and
Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency, April 2015
all agree on glyphosate’s safety.

Source: Vanguard News

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