Dr. Rose Gidado, the country coordinator for the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, has estimated the cost of importing beans or cowpea into Nigeria at N16 billion due to security concerns having a negative impact on food supply.
Gidado, who is in charge of the organization’s chapter in Nigeria, made this statement in Abuja during a Science Hang Out event put on by Alliance for Science Nigeria and Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology.
She emphasized that although Nigeria is the world’s top producer of cowpeas, there is a consumption imbalance of 500,000 tonnes, which forces imports from nearby nations.
She did, however, express hope that the cowpea import gap will close once the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea is released and commercialized in Nigeria.
You may remember that the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea was the first genetically modified crop to receive approval from the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).
This action was taken after the cowpea or bean was genetically altered to withstand the maruca vitrata pest, an insect that has the potential to destroy more than 80% of bean pods.
The PBR Cowpea was created by the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, with assistance from the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).
“With PBR cowpea, the production gap will be filled and Nigeria will save N48 billion yearly on its import expense,” claims Gidado.
She said that the new bean type will enable farmers to use fewer pesticides yet still reap a bountiful harvest, aiding in the fight against poverty and revitalizing the Nigerian economy.
In order to combat the devastating pod borer bug, known as maruca vitrata, Nigerian bean farmers must spray insecticides on their crops eight to ten times throughout each planting season, according to the speaker.
The Country Co-ordinator, OFAB allayed fears about the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or foods by stating that agricultural biotechnology is the most strictly regulated industry.
She outlined how NBMA has been tasked with regulating GMOs to ensure their safety for human consumption.
She argued that PBR cowpea is healthy, nontoxic, and safe and added that people who lack fresh technological concepts have politicized science.
“We must accept this technology. In other revolutions, we suffered losses. We’re talking about sustainability and economic diversification in this biological era, the gene revolution.
When people don’t comprehend this technology, it makes me very sad. It concerns a tally of information and proof.
“In the face of pressing problems like the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, we simply need to accept this cutting-edge technology to feed the increasing population.
Gidado made an additional plea to the government to increase funding for biotechnology research and added that it was important to give girls and young people access to technology.
Conventional crops, according to Mr. Opuah Abiekwen, Coordinator, Alliance for Science Nigeria, have not been able to resolve the persistent problem of food insecurity in the nation.
Given that the cutting-edge technology is climate-smart, environmentally benign, and provides higher yields when compared to conventional or traditional crops, he emphasized the need for its implementation to feed the teeming population.
He pointed out that the conference was set up to improve journalists’ and scientists’ grasp of agricultural biotechnology so they could appropriately inform the public and assess the situation with regard to GM crops in Nigeria.
According to Mr. Greg Odogwu, National Coordinator, Centre for Renewable Energy, the global food system issue is causing a rapid change in the world.
Odogwu emphasized the significance of media adequately informing the people about the necessity for farmers to use the technology.
He urged the media to continue educating the public and raising awareness through thorough, unbiased reporting.