The security crises caused in past years by Boko Haram, which prevented farmers in the Northeast region of Nigeria from growing food, has prompted the United Nations to declare the country is in dire need of food intervention.
“A projected 5.1 million people will face serious food shortages in 2017 as conflict and the risk of unexploded improvised devices prevented farmers from planting for a third year in a row, causing a major food crisis," said Peter Lundberg, deputy humanitarian coordinator of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
It is no longer news that there are shortages and challenges with Nigeria’s agricultural system. The question now is what is being done to solve these problems. Nigerian scientists are working hard through improved conventional breeding programs and genetic improvements to produce “climate smart” varieties of seeds that can withstand drought, insects and disease, thereby increasing productivity, income and livelihood for farmers.
Fortunately, the Nigeria Academy of Science, which is the nation’s apex scientific organization and the federal government’s scientific advisor, has declared GMOs not harmful, and beneficial for increased productivity in agriculture. The Academy noted that the technology, although it does leave some people fearful and concerned, would be useful to the country because of its potential to boost the nation’s agriculture, which could help address food insecurity. This declaration will aid policy-making in GM adoption and also counter some controversial claims advanced by anti-GM groups.
This declaration by the Nigeria Academy reiterates the report by America’s National Academy of Sciences and goes a long way toward reassuring the public on the safety of this technology. To summarize the summary of the 407 page report: When used properly, GMOs are good for farmers and good for the environment. GM foods are safe for animals and humans.
Kabiru Ibrahim, the president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, has called on farmers to ignore claims by anti-GM groups that GM crops are unsafe. He insists that 70 million Nigerian farmers stand to benefit from agricultural biotechnology, which means that a larger percentage of the population will be prosperous and the nation’s food systems will change. Despite these supportive declarations, anti-GM groups still claim that Nigeria is not ready to adopt the technology due to lack of infrastructure and capacity. But if we are not ready now, when will we be ready?
The Nigerian government is working well with the research institutes to facilitate the commercialization of GM crops in Nigeria. Through various declarations and commitment by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, there is hope for the revitalization of the agricultural sector. If the adoption schedule goes well, and activism is reduced, Nigeria could create avenues to a wealth of crop technologies that will solve the existing agricultural challenges in Africa.