The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) has lamented that misinformation is one of the key factors that have hindered the adoption of agricultural biotechnology in Nigeria.
It said the decades of negative news about biotechnology is responsible for the current scepticism among farmers.
Director-General /CEO of NABDA, Professor Abdullahi Mustapha stated this in Abuja during a programme on PBR Cowpea (beans) with the theme: A Model Private Public Partnership (PPP) for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa.
He said the commercialization of genetically modified cotton cowpea in the country was a huge success with the scientific community developing and releasing varieties that meet the nation’s needs, addressing challenges that hitherto could not be mitigated using the conventional breeding methods.
The NABDA CEO noted that the products have also been certified safe by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), which is the competent National Authority on the safety of genetically enhanced organisms in Nigeria, adding that they are safe for use by humans, the environment and animals, therefore pose no risk what-so-ever.
He words: “Genetically enhanced products have been in existence in other countries of the world for nearly three decades, using the technology to turn around their agricultural productivity challenges, improve their health sector but here the technology has been under unnecessary criticisms that are not taking us anywhere.
“The long road to commercialization would prove fruitless if the crop is not adopted and accepted by farmers and consumers.
“To prevent this predicament, the post-commercialization environment requires sustainable outreach and media efforts with diverse partners and new stakeholders.”
The Counsellor for Agricultural Affairs, United States Department of Agriculture, Mr Gerald Smith, said the commercialization of the transgenic bean also underscores that extensive safety studies were conducted to demonstrate that the Bt cowpea is safe for both human and livestock consumption.
He said thousands of farmers across Nigeria who planted the Bt cowpea this planting season attest to the multiple benefits they derived compared to prior seasons.
“This success of a transgenic bean adds a new crop from Africa to the global biotech basket,” he noted.
The immediate Past President Genetics Society of Nigeria (GSN), Professor Emmanuel Hala Kwon-Ndung who noted that the anti-GMO activists have intensified their opposition by supporting some gullible Nigerians to speak out against the Bt cowpea technology, said their claims are not only wrong but are anti-progressive, anti-nationalistic and hypocritical to the aspirations of the Nigerian people who need more food to feed her teeming population.
“They commonly cite concerns of human and environmental health, the disruption of conventional farming systems and even fears that multinational seed companies will take over our food production system.
“We stand here as professional experts to tell Nigerians that their claims are not only wrong but are anti-progressive, anti-nationalistic and hypocritical to the aspirations of the Nigerian people who need more food to feed her teeming population and alleviate the poverty of her numerous smallholder citizens,” he said.