Recently, a coalition of civil society organizations embarked on campaign demanding a ban on genetically modified beans otherwise known as PBR Cowpea.
The group expressed concerns with regards to the environmental, socio-economic and health implications of the Beans which was granted approval for commercial release in Nigeria in 2019.
Correspondent Blessing Ituma sought the views of experts on the concerns raised by the group on quality and health implications of the genetically modified beans.
Nigeria is the largest producer and consumer of Cowpea commonly called beans. World food report states that Nigeria consumes more than 3.6million tonnes of cowpea annually but it still must import 500,000 tonnes to meet local demands.
Agricultural Experts say that maruca pests feed on Cowpea plants, sometimes causing farmers to loose 80-100 percent of their crop.
It was to find a lasting solution to Cowpea wastage that about a decade ago, the Amadu Bello University developed a genetically modified Cowpea that is resistant to the maruca pest and which was approved in Nigeria in 2019 for commercial release.
On the environmental and health concerns raised by a group to revoke the permits granted by Nigeria’s National Biosafety Management Agency, to the Institute of Agricultural Research Zaria, for the commercial release of genetically modified beans, the director general of NBMA, Dr. Rufus Ebegba noted that federal government’s approval of the GM beans was for the interest of citizens as it was totally safe and went through due diligence.
He cautioned against malicious campaigns which have been targeted against government’s good intentions for its citizens such as the introduction of GMOs and the COVID vaccine.
“We want to assure u that any product before it is released by the national Biosafety Management Agency, it is declared safe. We have a gm detect analysis equipment where we can analyse all these these products.”
On the controversy that the process of gene modification uses chemicals and imparts negatively on non-targeted bacteria and other organisms, a research scientist, Dr. Abraham Isah told Radio Nigeria that it was not true.
“They are natural ways, there is a process called genegom. There’s also another process called electro pollution, no chemical involved in all these techniques. So the public can be rest assured that this process is completely safe. All criteria for judging the process of any gm crop is that it must be specific.”
On his part, a Geneticist with the University of Port Harcourt, Dr. Andrew Efisue called on Nigerians to embrace new technologies that are proven good stating that humans have been modifying crops for ages through cross breeding but that it has only been made easier through biotechnology.
“Our forefathers when they go to the bush they will gather fruits. Those ones that are edible to them, they will plant them in their home stead instead of going to the bush and be looking for it. That one becomes a cultivated type. We now developed gene through a mendelian gene methodology that you can even sit down and plan and modify your crops. That is where GMO starts from.”
Similarly, the Chairman of Nigeria Medical Association, Rivers State, Dr. Henry Sota in an interview assured members of the public that the genetically modified beans and other GM crops approved in the country were safe stating that the union would raise the concern if it were not so.
“You can be assured that the agency is doing its best and the Nigeria medical association would be partners. We want to partner with you.”
Radio Nigeria sought the views of a beans dealer in Port Harcourt on the quality of bean in the market, he appealed to government and research institutes to assist farmers with seed species of beans that
In the meantime, a beans dealer in Port Harcourt, Mallam Ismailla Salihu has appealed to government and researchers to introduce beans species that will last long, not needing chemicals for preservation.
“We like the government to introduce beans species that can help us, we the sellers, we can buy in large quantity and we can keep it without any preservative. This present government has introduced one type of specie for this local rice. The rice species is almost the same with foreign rice, so they call it jemilar, let them bring that seed into beans too.”
Also, a youth, Mr. Endy Anya advised government, agencies and relevant authourities to always enlighten the masses on its developments and innovations so that their good intentions would not be smeared by controversies.
In Port Harcourt, Blessing Ituma, Radio Nigeria