Nigerians have been advised to focus on the potential of GM products’ resistance to climate change, as well as its ability to increase food security in the country, as it does in other countries that have adopted the technology, rather than dwell on ideological arguments that are of no benefit.

Nigeria’s adoption of GM products is a step in the right direction, said Dr. Rose Gidado, Coordinator of the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Nigerian Chapter, in her presentation ‘GMOs: Pots of Gold for Nigeria.’

Gidado said, in a statement recently that “Nigeria must promote and support this technology that is efficient, inclusive, climate-smart, sustainable, nutrition- and health-driven, and business-friendly in order to ensure that no Nigerian goes to sleep hungry by 2025. “Obviously, the high adoption rate of GM all over the world is testimony to the trust and confidence of millions of small and large farmers in crop biotechnology in both industrial and developing countries, despite pockets of opposition at very insignificant local level. There is the need to avoid ideological arguments and stick to strategies to benefit from GM products potential to increase food security in Nigeria.”

She said during the Twenty Third Ordinary Session of the Africa Union Assembly in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the heads of States and Governments of Africa undertook to eliminate hunger on the African continent by the year 2025. Put in simple terms, the Malabo Declaration states that by 2025, no African should go to bed hungry.

She noted that this was in line the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, quoting the president’s declaration that: “Agriculture must cease from being treated as development Programme; Agriculture must be treated as business. We will intervene in mining and agriculture, and we will upgrade the country’s physical and social infrastructure, which will broaden our revenue base and significantly improve the level of employment, especially among the youth.”

Nigeria, Gidado noted is a signatory to this declaration “but as at date, 10 per cent of the nation’s population is still unable to meet their daily calorific needs due to affordability, effective mass food production, storage and distribution. Nigeria tops the list of eleven ECOWAS countries that have over one million people affected by hunger and undernourishment while 63 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line of less than one dollar per day.  The challenges are bare. There is no solution in sight other than a very pervasive agricultural practice that will make food abundant and available to the generality of the masses.”

Considering the benefits of GM products to food security, she said the federal government laid solid foundation for application of modern biotechnology in the country, stating “First Nigeria signed the United Nations Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) in 2000, which was ratified 2003 and came into force on 11th September 2003. Secondly, the Nigerian government signed the National Biosafety bill into law in 2015 after the bill had scaled through the two chambers of the National Assembly since the anti GM groups had no solid arguments to convince the Senators and the House of Representative members to discard the bill during the public hearings. The National Biosafety Act provides for the establishment of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).”

Gidado said NBMA is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on conservation and sustainable use of Biodiversity taking into account risks to human health, animals, plants and environment.

Also, the Federal Government appointed a seasoned scientist, Mr. Rufus Ebegba, a professionally qualified Agriculturist and Environmental Biologist/Biosafety specialist to head the agency. He has garnered over 25 years working experience in various areas of Biosafety Management, Biodiversity Conservation and sustainable utilisation of renewable natural recourses.

“True to expectations, Mr. Ebegba had in January 2016 called on all owners of
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) suspects that are already in Nigeria
to formalise them, as the six months moratorium given them had expired. He announced that the enforcement of NBMA would commence in 2016 and has left no stone unturned in achieving this. The stakeholders have been fully sensitised and the security agencies have pledged their support and cooperation to the NBMA’s enforcement drive.

She said Nigerians are assured of safety of their health and environment with NBMA in place, saying “Nigeria should join the league of nations of the world that are transforming the lives and fortunes of their people using this technology.”

On issues of exploitation and safety, she said “Many public-private partnerships in Africa, where companies donate their technologies for free, disprove the anti-GM lobby’s arguments that poor African farmers are being exploited by the big multinationals. The arguments about the safety and health concerns around GM products are unfounded. For instance only healthy dosages of chemicals and pesticides are used in genetic modification. This technology reduces the use of chemicals and pesticides. For example, in Bt cotton the number of chemical spray reduces from 9 to 2.

“The fears around glyphosate being carcinogenic have been allayed by the European Food Security Authority (EFSA) when in November, 2015 it published the EU’s peer review of the active substance, glyphosate.”

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