The Federal Government has granted permits for confined field trials on genetically modified maize, rice, cassava, sorghum and cowpea to ascertain ability to resist insect attack in the country.
Country Coordinator of Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology (OFAB), Dr. Rose Gidado, told The Guardian that the permits were granted after in-depth risk assessment, socio-economic considerations, environmental costs, and benefits as well as safety of Nigerians.
Gidado said that with biosafety regulation in place, genetically modified crops are as safe as their traditional counterparts.She said technology would be needed to solve a number of social, economic, technical challenges. “The emergence of modern technology has raised so many issues and controversies on the safety of the crops to human and animal health, and future agriculture in the world.”
According to her, Nigeria as the world leading cassava producer has its estimated national average yield at about 13.63 metric tons per hectare. “This is shortfall as a result of environmental stress and diseases, among others The deficit can be prevented by planting GM cassava equipped with traits to withstand and resist these factors. Biotechnology provides remedies to the challenges encountered in food production.”According to Gidado, the field trials are aimed at developing plant varieties that will provide high yields at lower cost, by incorporating traits such as resistance to diseases and pests.
“These production hurdles can be addressed through crops and livestock improvements as stated by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).”