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Biotech crops set to enhance human health

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By Usman Oladimeji

Modified crops have been designed to resist pests and insects.

The challenges faced by farmers in Nigeria over the years with insect and pest damage causing crop losses and unprofitable harvests have all led to substantial financial setbacks and have even forced some farmers to close down. However, in their pursuit to stay afloat, farmers have resorted to chemical pesticides for pest control. Unfortunately, the potential health risks associated with these chemicals are frequently ignored. Despite their value in boosting crop yields, chemical pesticides pose serious risks to the environment and the health of farmers.

As part of its efforts to mitigate negative impacts on local farmers and the environment, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has taken resolute steps by promoting the use of genetically modified crops. These crops have been designed to resist pests and insects without the need for frequent chemical applications. Specifically, the AATF has facilitated the creation of Pod Borer resistant Cowpea, Bt Cotton, and TELA maize to support sustainable farming practices in Africa. These crops have been genetically designed to optimize water usage, fend off specific insects, and enhance overall crop production.

Healthy plants play a pivotal role in building trade partners’ trust.

Dr. Mohammed Abubakar, former Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, has in recent times, highlighted the critical role of plant health in ensuring food security in Nigeria, stressing that the country’s ability to provide nutritious food and meet dietary requirements hinges on the well-being of its plants. Moreover, he pointed out that healthy plants play a pivotal role in building trust among trade partners by ensuring the quality and safety of Nigeria’s plant exports. Likewise, Vincent Isegbe, the ex-Chief of the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), declared that the European Union prohibited the entry of Nigerian dried beans because of excessive pesticide residues posing a threat to human well-being.

Isegbe who mentioned this during the inauguration of the Standing Inter-Ministerial Technical Committee on Zero Reject of Agricultural Commodities and Produce/Non-Oil Exports, pointed out that Nigeria’s significant share in the global dried cowpea production, being the top producer with 46 percent worldwide and 48 percent in Africa, is hindered by contaminated products preventing dominance in the global market. These statistics underscore the negative impacts of chemical pesticides on both people and the natural world, as well as the barriers they create for global trade, ultimately cutting down farmers’ earnings and endangering the economy.

Genetically modified crops can boost productivity.

Research conducted by the Small Scale Women Farmers Organization of Nigeria and the Alliance for Action on Pesticides revealed that in specific regions of the country, 80% of pesticides utilized by women farmers are deemed hazardous and in need of stricter monitoring. According to a new study from the National Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Nigerian farmers and Agro-based companies are collectively shelling out $400 million each year on buying pesticides that are prohibited in many countries. Considering these findings, it is safe to say that the introduction of genetically modified crops is a game-changer in promoting public health and economic growth.

Supporting and investing in genetically modified crops is the key to addressing this problem. These crops can minimize the need for harmful chemical pesticides and boost productivity. Fully embracing this solution will help Nigeria regain its competitive edge globally, boost farmer incomes, strengthen the economy, and promote healthier food and environments for both humans and animals. As part of its effort, It is expected that the Nigerian government will enhance regulations and guidelines to restrict the influx of chemical pesticides through imports.

Related Article: FG approves commercial release of TELA Maize

It is important for the government to strengthen partnerships with entities like the AATF, which focuses on improving food security in Africa using agricultural technology. The AATF views the agricultural industry as crucial for Africa’s economic development and its emergence as a prominent global economic player and a key growth market worldwide. AATF is pioneering the advancement of insect and pest resistant, as well as high-yielding, crops across Africa with its focus on using technology to improve lives.

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