The Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) has dismissed reports that genetically-improved crop varieties were harmful to the health of Nigerians.
The Director, Partnerships and Linkages of ARCN, Mr. Yarama Ndirpaya, said the allegations were ‘unfounded, false, mischievous, and unpatriotic’.
Recall that there were moves by Nigerians to prevent the introduction of genetically modified cotton and maize into Nigeria’s foods and farming system.
Ndirpaya, who represented the Executive Secretary of the ARCN, Prof. Ambrose Voh, spoke in Kano, during a press briefing on Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea, preceding a field assessment of genetically modified beans resistant to pod borer called Maruca which reduces farmers’ yield as much as 80 percent.
Ndirpaya lamented the development which alleged health danger of some of the new crop varieties being developed in the national research institutes by Nigerian scientists, which he said, was in spite of the achievements of research institutions in the country towards the development of agriculture in Nigeria.
“I want to inform you that these allegations are unfounded, false, mischievous, and unpatriotic. The originators of such misinformation have tried on destabilising the country by attempting to break her unity and failed. They are now targeting the crux of the economic policy of this government, that is, turnaround of the agriculture sector,” Ndirpaya said.
He further said many of the new technologies such as genetically improved crop varieties and livestock breeds will shut down the trade advantages of many foreign companies such as agrochemicals, as well as commodity-trading-companies from whom Nigeria imports huge amounts of grains and other products running into billions of naira annually.
He continued, “We must not allow them to succeed. The National Agricultural Research system has served this country well since the days of the groundnut and cotton pyramids that earned huge revenues for this country then, and will continue to render even more for the development of Nigerian agriculture,” Ndirpaya added.
He assured Nigerians that no product of the research institutes under the watchful eyes of ARCN and the leadership of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, will be harmful or have adverse effect on the health of Nigerians.
Speaking earlier, Ndirpaya said the ARCN, through its strategic plan, mapped out the integration of proven technologies to enhance research productivity to mitigate the challenges of the nation’s agricultural development.
He said that ARCN, after due consultation with the stakeholders such as the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) and the National Council of Agriculture, identified modern biotechnology as one of the modern scientific tools whose power and efficiency could be leveraged upon to generate new Indigenous agricultural technologies such as genetically improved crop varieties and livestock breeds with not only high productivity and consumer preferred characteristics, but also health for the body.
Also speaking, the Principal Investigator of the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea, Prof. Mohammed Ishiaku of the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna, state, also bemoaned the reports that the new Cowpea would destroy kidney and liver.
“I don’t know who ate this Cowpea to start with, that it will destroy his liver or kidney. Who ate it? I am the only one who has this Cowpea in this country.
“So, the person who wrote it, how did he know that it will affect kidney? Did he eat it? Ladies and gentlemen, this is the beginning of this hoax these individuals are trying to promote. This thing does not exist, it is a lie, it is a very big lie,” Ishiaku said.
He said through the new approach, for every hectare, a farmer would enjoy a reduction of N5,400 for growing the variety.
Ishiaku added that if grown by one third of Nigerian Cowpea fields, the nation would save N16 billion from the cost of insecticide alone.
He further said if there was 20 percent increase yield over normal non-resistant Cowpea, the nation would get financial benefit not less than N48 billion every year.
Speaking earlier, the Director, IAR, Prof. Ibrahim Abubakar, represented by Prof Ambrose Kashina, an assistant director at the IAR, said the IAR had a lot of competencies that put it at a very advantageous position in terms of the conduct of high level research.
“Part of this are that we have a highly experienced and skilled level force in terms of the scientists in all areas of agriculture, including molecular biology, teaching culture experts and these people have actually benefited from trainings both within and outside the country,” Kashina said.