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Mixed Reactions Trail FG’s Launch of GMO TELA Maize Variety

By Femi Akinola and George George Idowu

The launch of the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) maize variety named TELA by the Federal Government of Nigeria has generated mixed reactions by stakeholders and experts in the agric sector, NatureNews can report.

The newly launched TELA maize was developed at the Institute of Agriculture Research (IAR) at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State.

It was gathered that the GMO maize was developed not only by IAR but in full financial backing by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, two years after the meeting between President Bola Tinubu and Bill Gate in Riyahd, capital of Saudi Arabia, over the need by Nigeria to adopt GMO seeds.

During the launching ceremony in Abuja, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said the federal government ”will only do things that will promote Nigerian citizen’s welfare, health and security.”

The Chairman of the AATF Board of Trustees, Prof. Aggrey Ambali, corroborated the minister’s claim saying, ”Nigeria’s newly launched TELA maize variety will bridge the nations’ annual maize production deficit.”

He added that TELA maize variety incorporates resilience against drought and pest adding that it is a testament to the power of biotechnology in addressing some of the most pressing challenges in agriculture, such as Fall Army Worm (FAM).

In addition, the Director of Tuber Root at the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI) in Umudike, Abia State, Dr. Charles Amad, affirmed the safety of the GMOs for human consumption.

He said that GMOs not only enhance food safety but capable of improving agricultural yields for farmers.

Dr. Amadi gave the assurance on GMOs safety for consumption during a recent workshop in Jos, Plateau State.

The workshop was part of the ”Global Biotechnology Potato Partnership (GBPP) project, funded by the United States Agency for Internationational Development (USAID).

Addressing misconceptions about GMOs, Amadi said, ” There are many groups spreading false claims about GMOs, but GMOs are extensively tested and do not cause cancer or allegies as being rumoured. The do not make you sick, they do not make anyone impotent or cause miscarriages in women. GMOs offers farmers options for crop varieties, with the choice to grow them or not.”

However, in its reaction to the adoption of GMOs by the Federal Government, the Global Profile Alliance (GPA), warned the government that GMO seeds should be regarded as toxic seeds which can cause immune system damage and sterility, the reason it faces global rejection due to health and enviroment concerns.

The group also said that promoters and sponsors of GMOs in and outside the country have hidden agenda which are yet to be introduced to the authorities and Nigerians as a whole. It stated that their hidden agenda is certainly not in the best interest of Nigerians.

GPA noted it has observed GMOs for long and wrote a letter in May to President Bola Tinubu and the National Assembly, urging the Federal Government to do away with any idea that will associate with embracing GMO seed cultivation and distribution in Nigeria because of its high health risk.

In the letter signed by the chairman of GPA, Dr. Philip Njemanze, the group stated that the overall strategy of promoters of GMOs foods in the country is to capture the nation’s food security noting that the interests had intervened with deceptive programmes that has led to the untimely death of many seed-grower farmers in the country.

The group stressed further saying, the ”GMO seeds, deceptively called high-yield improved seeds, do not replicate themselves; hence they are called ‘suicide’ seeds, that is, once planted and it grows, you cannot replant the next generation.”

As TELA maize has been launched by the Federal Government, GPA expressed fear that in as much the GMO seeds would be planted alongside the natural crops, the cross-pollination would make the natural seed also carry the GMO seed genes, eventually they would be rendered to becoming GMO crops.

”This has a serious implication such that a 1% contamination of the natural crops would make them be classified as GMO; hence they will remain banned from European, Russian, Asian and American markets,” the group declared.

It also argued that once GMO seed is aproved in Nigeria, agriculture in the country would stop being a foreign currency earning sector of the nation’s economy.

Another concerned stakeholder, Joseph Okechuwku, said the federal authority gave approval for the adoption of TELA maize on the advise given by the National Committee on Naming, Registration, and Release of Crop Varieties, Livestock Breeds and Fisheries (NCNRCVLF), during its 33rd meeting.

The approved GMO maize varieties are SAMMAZ 72T, 73T, 74T and 75T, which are resistant to stem borders and fall armyworms and have a yield advantage under good agricultural practices.

However, he said these approved GMO maize varieties contained built-in insecticides, making them harmful to humans and capable of leading to health issues such as immune system damage and sterility.

Okechukwu empahised on the dangers of GMOs, including the potential presence of toxin similar to those found in dangerous substances like anthrax and ricin.

He raised doubts about their safety saying many countries across the world, including the advanced nations have rejected GMO crops due to health implication and environment concerns, as against Nigeria’s acceptance.


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