•As Nigeria get set to release her first GMO agricultural produce by 2018
by FRANK OYAKHILOME
NATIONAL Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA),Director-General, Mr Rufus Ebegba has disclosed that his agency will begin the prosecution of unregistered companies and institutions involved in modern biotechnology and genetic engineering practices in Nigeria by January 2016 at a media and stakeholders’ workshop on the role of media in promoting biotechnology development in Nigeria recently in Abuja.
Ebegba who regretted the concerns expressed by some members of the public against the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), explained that that the products were safe for consumption and the environment and they are not manufactured but a swap of genes to ensure improved agriculture.
NBMA DG further explained that GMOs are not synthetic materials, they are not manufactured, it is a swap of genes to achieve an aim. There are attempts by some individuals to cause unnecessary panic over matters surrounding genetically modified organisms, who are using the results of the European Nations to judge the GMO activities, Ebegba assured Nigerians that Europe should not be used as a model as NAMA will adopt technologies that are safe for Africa and our nation.
He added that a safe modern biotechnology under a legal framework has ability to generate up to 25,00 jobs annually as Nigeria is a country with diverse activities.
The NBMA boss reiterated that by January, anybody found using, handling, transporting, transiting or any activity of modern biotechnology or genetic engineering (without approval), shall ensure they are prosecuted. “Nigeria government will not allow any product that is not approved in our markets, in our farms or anywhere,” he said
The Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Lucy Ogbadu, who was represented by the head of Media, MrBabajideIletogun,in his remark said that GMO foods were safe and more nutritious and that GMOs could solve agricultural problems in Nigeria.
The Coordinator and Organiser of theb workshop, Journalist for Social Development Initiative (JSDI), MrMichealEtte, said the workshop was aimed at creating awareness among journalists and it is also to ensure adequate reportage of safe modern biotechnology in Nigeria.
Ette reiterated that the workshop is an initiative to promote professional journalism as there will be need for a conscious effort to promote the development of modern biotechnology. “We want the media to help educate the public to alienate their concerns against GMOs”, Ette said.
The Country Representative of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB), Mrs Rose Gidado, during her speech said that agriculture would not be a business without the use of biotechnology and without biotechnology; agriculture can hardly be used as a business because of low productivity that is being experienced by farmers.
Gidado who revealed that about three crops already in Nigeria are undergoing confinement trials, affirmed that by 2018, the agency is going to release the first genetically modified Cowpea, which is called BT Cowpea in Nigeria and farmers will have access to it
OFAB Country Coordinator, said that the BT Cowpea would help farmers improve their yields, as it will nutritionally enhanced the produce and create pest resistant crops.
“We know that climate change has been a problem to our farmers but with biotechnology we will overcome climate challenges. Farmers will have access to some scientific innovations. There are three crops already in Nigeria that are undergoing confinement trials and by 2018, we will release the first genetically modified product called BT Cowpea,” Gidado said.
The coordinator, who decried that most textile industries in Nigeria were moribund, said that genetically modified cotton would also be released to encourage textile industries in Nigeria. She also revealed that BT Corn and cotton which will be of advantage to Nigeria and the economy will also be released into the market.
OFAB which was launched in 2009 by the Africa Agricultural Development Foundation, in Kenya, is already operating in Burkina Faso and generating millions of dollars from genetically modified cotton, as Gidado, reiterated that Nigeria had the capacity to surpass Burkina Faso in cotton production through biotechnology.
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