• Monday, June 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

Food Insecurity: Experts see GMO as solution to Nigeria’s food crisis 

GMO Foods

With Nigeria’s growing food crisis, experts who spoke with BusinessDay see Genetically Modified foods (GMO) as the solution.

They say the country’s food crisis can be solved if more GM foods are adopted into the food chain.

Genetically Modified seeds have their genetic compositions altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating them with a natural plant. Soybeans, cowpeas, maize and other seeds can be genetically modified to increase crop yield and harvest season.

Kabiru Ibrahim, national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, in an interview with BusinessDay, said there has been no health risk attached to the consumption of genetically grown foods.

“I am a champion of biotechnology and I know that GM foods are safe for consumption. It has so far not posed any health risk to people who consume it,” he said in response to questions.

Ibrahim said that Nigeria’s food production cannot meet its growing population of more than 200 million people, hence, genetically modified foods with proven shorter growing duration and increased yield, should be encouraged by the government.

“If we can eat ‘agric’ chickens that are different from local ones, and we are yet to have any health issues from them, why can’t we eat genetically modified foods?”

Nigeria has an increasing agricultural insecurity crisis that is driving many farmers away from their farms for fear of being killed by bandits, impacting the country’s food production.

An SBM Intelligence report in April revealed that Benue State considered Nigeria’s food basket, lost 690 farmers to death and 130 to severe injuries inflicted by bandits.

According to experts, Nigeria has lost 60 per cent of its food production in key producing states owing to insecurity, a situation that is crippling its food chain.

However, there are Nigerians who caution against the consumption of genetically modified foods for fear of risks of cancer, and antibiotic resistance issues, among others.

In February, controversy trailed the approval of genetically modified maize (Tela varieties) as some farmers and rights groups called for the reversal of the approval to cultivate and trade GM maize in the country.

Research by the Institute for Agricultural Research carried out on four varieties of the accepted GM maize across 10 states with varied agroecological conditions, showed that using GM maize seeds does not significantly improve farmers’ yield per hectare from its current 2.2MT.

Only recently, Global Profile Alliance, a food and beverage investment company, cautioned the federal government against acceptance of GM seeds into the country, noting that it is not only hazardous to the health but also holds a hidden agenda against local farmers.

Abiodun Olorundero, managing partners of Prasinos Farms, said while there have been claims about the health risks of GM foods, there is no theoretical evidence for it.

According to him, with GM seeds, the food crisis prevalent in Africa’s most populous nation can be solved.

“GMO seeds have come to help the world by ensuring food availability,” Olorundero said. “Take a look at the Western world who are more conscious of what they eat, and they encourage GMO seeds as part of their food chain.”

He said while a shortcoming of GM seeds is that they cannot be replicated, they still hold a solution to Nigeria’s food crisis, as they promised faster growing time, combating hunger.

“Our yield is still very low because we are reliant on organic methods of food production when with GMO our harvest time will be shortened to aid food availability.”

He added that the country’s food production is not entirely organic because of chemical compositions in fertilizers and pesticides, among others involved in its current agricultural process.

“If Nigeria is opposed to GM seeds, then almost all the foods we consume are genetically modified because the chemical composition in our fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals used in our farms contain some percentage of GMO,” he stated.