Expert calls for caution in adopting GMO agriculture

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An expert in agriculture, Mr Ismail Olawale, has called for caution and adequate information before the adoption of Genetic Modified Organism (GMO) farming by local farmers.

Olawale, a fellow of the Nigerian Agriculture and Extension Liaison Service (NAERLS), made the call this in Lagos.

The expert said it was necessary to have the message of GMO well communicated to the local farmers before its adoption as a farming practice in the country.

“What we experts in the field are calling for as regards GMOs is that we should have a national framework that speaks to both the advantages and the disadvantages of GMOs.

“We do not just want a national policy which pushes everybody to embrace it because government has said so.

“Most reports say GMO farming is the eldorado to save countries like Nigeria from poverty, starvation and food insecurity. They say GMO will revitalise agriculture.

“But if we are driving revitalisation plan solely on biotechnology, are we safe? Are we not going to kill the indigenous knowledge of local farmers?

“We should not sabotage or abandon our local produce because we want to go into GMO crop cultivation.

“Whether you like it or not, throughout the whole world, the small scale farmers are the ones feeding more than 400 million people,” the expert said.

While stressing the positive effects of practicing genetically modified agriculture in the country, Olawale said there were still some shortcomings with the process.

“The argument for GMO agriculture is that small land will give you higher productivity.

“If you plant indigenous corn on two acres, you may have like 20 bags of corn. But if you plant a GMO crop on two acres of land, you can get up to 45 bags of corn.

“There are also arguments that these GMO crops are fortified with vitamins. So, instead of buying food supplements, these crops will act as both food and supplements.

“There is a cassava variety developed by Nigerians that is fortified with Vitamin A. The cassava is yellow in colour and there is no need to add palm oil when frying it.

“Some of these GMO crops also have their shortcomings; you have altered the nature of a crop and there is no way you will not face one or two problems.

“The crops can also alter the properties of the soil and this means the soil will also react to the cultivation of a pre-modified crop,” Olawale said.

Genetically modified foods, also known as genetically engineered foods, or bio-engineered foods are foods produced from organisms that have had changes introduced in their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering.