The Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association (NTMA) has expressed its support for the environmental release and commercialisation of genetically modified Bt Cotton for Nigerian farmers. The GM cotton is said to be resistant to pests’ invasion.
A position paper signed by the NTMA Acting Director-General, Hamma Kwajaffa, noted that while the Nigerian textile industry is a strategic non-oil sector and the largest after oil and agriculture, it is also the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.
The association attributed the nation’s cotton potential to abundant raw materials such as cotton and polyester chips (petrochemical), adding that the industry has a high potential for added value generation from raw material to finished goods, and is a major employer of urban and rural populations.
“It is estimated that about 30,000 Nigerians are employed in the textile industry and an additional one million small farmers and labourers are both in direct cotton production and within the value chain, probably supporting five million more people. This is a sharp contrast from over 400,000 people employed across over 250 textile mills in the country in the 80s,” the statement reads.
The group commended the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogonnaya Onu, who recently underlined government’s interest in utilising the potentials of Bt Cotton to revive the industry.
Applauding government’s establishment of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) to address issues of human health as well as environmental safety concerns, the NTMA advised NBMA “to engage the farmers in high level education as the whole GMO farming emanates from educated farmers like in the US, India, Brazil, Greece and Argentina”.
It added that the recent application by Monsanto for the environmental release and commercialisation of GM Bt Cotton could play an immense role in making cotton farming attractive “as well as reviving and repositioning the textile sector.”
It further added that the science-based review process by regulatory agencies and independent experts that the application was currently undergoing would ascertain the safety to human and animal health as well as the environment, of the proposed product.
“Lack of confidence by participants across the value chain over the years is restricting much-needed investment and one of the root causes of this is tied to the most important input in the industry, the cotton crop,” the statement continued, adding, “Seed quality remains a problem affecting yield and by implication, farmers’ income and motivation to cultivate. The prevalence of pests which leads to increased expenses in pesticides (thereby unnecessarily hiking cost of inputs upwards) is also another contributing factor.”
By Abdallah el-Kurebe