Home News GMO crops will help Nigeria attain food security faster – AFAN

GMO crops will help Nigeria attain food security faster – AFAN

by Haruna Gimba
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By Muhammad Amaan

The All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) said the country can achieve food security faster, if it embraces the use of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seeds.

National President of AFAN, Malam Kabiru Ibrahim, made the remarks amid renewed debate over the safety of GMO plants on human and environmental health in Nigeria.

In May, the House of Representatives called for the suspension of GMOs in Nigeria pending the conclusion of a comprehensive investigation.

This decision followed extensive debates and concerns raised by various groups, as well as a motion moved by the lawmaker representing Ilorin West/Asa Federal Constituency in Kwara State, Muktar Shagaya.

The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) had approved the introduction of GM crops without adhering to proper due process and scientific protocols.

The NBMA introduced GM crops into the country in 2019, as a measure to combat food insecurity.

In 2022, NBMA’s Director General and Chief Executive Officer, Rufus Ebegba, clarified that “none of the GMOs approved in the country has any risk associated with it.”

However, some health and environmental advocates criticised the introduction of GMOs in the country, stating that it violates the principles of food sovereignty.

GMOs, the World Health Organisation says, are plants, animals or microorganisms whose genetic material has been altered through technology that allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another.

The technology is known as modern biotechnology, gene technology or genetic engineering.

WHO notes that GM plants are developed to improve crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses.

The health organisation further stated that concerns have been raised about the safety of GMO foods, including allergic reactions, gene transfer from the food to humans, and interactions between GM crops and conventional seeds.

However, it noted that no allergic effects have been recorded the use of gene transfer technology that does not involve antibiotic resistance genes is encouraged, and that a clear separation of fields for GM crops and conventional crops has been adopted.

Reacting to the claims, the AFAN president stated that using GM crops increases yield and ensures Nigeria gains food security faster.

He explained that GM crops are science-based and have been proven to be safe.

Malam Ibrahim also stated that persons who have alleged that there was a nexus between GM crops and diseases were yet to present facts to back up their arguments.

“He noted that the Pod Borer Resistant cowpea, being contested against, was modified to withstand insect infestation and drought, making it have a higher yield than the normal seed type.

“Therefore, the advantage is that it would even take farmers out of poverty. We launched the PBR cowpea in Alausa in Lagos State, two years ago. Akara and Moi-Moi were made with it and people came and ate and we also ate out of it and we are healthy,” the AFAN president said.

The AFAN president further dismissed the notion that GM crops will cause famine, asserting that GMO increases production, ensure higher yield and lead to prosperity

“In Nigeria, we have just released the Tela maize. The Tela maize can withstand drought, army worms, and can withstand stem borers. Also, its yield is higher than the normal hybrid maize.

“Therefore, the way out of poverty and to get into food security for Nigeria is through GM crops. This is why Brazil is now a developed country. Most of what comes out of Brazil, in terms of corn, beans, and all that, are all GM.

“We have also imported maize for the poultry industry from Argentina and it is in Lagos. Because of the competition between animals and humans, we need to embrace GM crops so that we will be able to optimise our productivity and be able to feed both our animals and humans,” Ibrahim said.

He further noted that there was already a law regulating the use of GM crops in the country, stating that the motion to stop the release of GM was done out of ignorance as a motion can’t contradict a law.

The AFAN president challenged persons advocating against the use of GM crops to present scientific evidence to back up their arguments.

The AFAN president further noted that the current food crisis was largely due to the naira devaluation, noting that the spill-over of the insecurity and climate change impacts from last year contributed to the crisis.

Ibrahim asserted that declaring an emergency on food security also implies emergencies on insecurity, the purchasing power of the naira and corruption.

He further decried the dependence on importation and the landing costs of imported food items, stating that it contributed to the rise in food prices.

The farmer called for local production of food crops to ensure cheaper food prices and availability.

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