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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

AfCFTA: Nigeria’s opportunity for status elevation via biotech crops – AFAN President

President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Kabir Ibrahim, says the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) offers Nigeria opportunity to become Africa’s giant through optimal food production.Biotech

Dr Muhammad Mahmood Abubakar
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Muhammad Mahmood Abubakar

Ibrahim, who said this in an interview in Abuja on Monday, July 18, 2022, described AfCFTA as a common market and emphasised that biotech (Bt) or genetically modified crops (GM) are adjudged safe.

He said that the optimal food production would be achievable using biotech crops.

“My background in pure science and architecture imbues in me the ability to decipher the efficacy and potential of any scientific innovation empirically.

“I am convinced that there is no nexus between cancer and GM crops, for instance,’’ he said.

The AFAN national president argued that the fear of GM crops as expressed by anti-GM activists was not supported by good science.

He said that several international meetings and discussions all over the world had reached the conclusion that GM crops did not cause any disease.

He said this was more so, because GM crops were certified by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) of Nigeria before being released.

Ibrahim noted that the crops had also undergone numerous tests and regulations by the Biosafety Agency even before being certified safe for planting or consumption.

He said Nigerian farmers had fully embraced biotechnology as a game changer to lift them from poverty to prosperity and bring out the much-desired food security to Nigeria.

“I, therefore, implore our farmers, traditional rulers, clerics and extension workers to champion the advocacy to embrace biotechnology which ennobles the commercialisation of GM crops.

“This will be the game changer in our quest for attainment of food sufficiency and exit from poverty as a nation,’’ Ibrahim said.

He said the cowpea (beans) which had been genetically modified to resist the insect pest of maruca vitrata, commonly called Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea (PBR Cowpea), had the potential of helping Nigeria economically.

Ibrahim said it would help Nigeria close the deficit of nearly 500,000 metric tonnes now being experienced and also enable it to be a net exporter of the commodity to Africa nations through AfCFTA.

He said this could be replicated to the rest of the world through sustainable agribusiness.

Ibrahim said that farmers would spend less on insecticide and labour, thereby mitigating losses due to insect infestation, especially the dreaded pod borer which was known to wipe out about 70 per cent cowpea plantation.

“I can testify to the efficacy of the PBR cowpea because I have planted it and sprayed only twice instead of eight times to 10 times.

“The yield is also quite remarkable, and the same thing goes with the biotech cotton (Bt cotton),’’ the AFAN President said.

He noted that Nigerian farmers would exit subsistence farming by planting PBR Cowpea and Bt cotton and several other crops that would soon be released.

By Sylvester Thompson

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