The Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, has called on the Federal Government to use the university’s Teaching and Research Farm for the trial of genetically modified organisms.
Ogunbodede said this at the South-West Agro-ecological Biosafety Awareness Workshop held in Ile Ife.
He said that Nigeria, with a population of about 170 million people, should not discriminate against technologies that had proved to be safe.
Arguing that the conventional agricultural practice must give way to modern ones so as to boost food production and the national economy, he said, “Our teaching and research farm should be a national centre for confined and open trials of approved GM crops by the Federal Government. To achieve this, there is a society need to sensitise, mobilise and create awareness among stakeholders in the field of biotechnology in this university and the South-West in particular to bio-safety issues.”
The Director General, National Biosafety Management Agency, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, said the belief that GMOs were not safe for human consumption was erroneous.
He called on scientists to come to the public and defend the usefulness of modern biotechnology to the food security drive and the overall development of the nation.
The DG, who was represented by Dr. Alex Abutu, said those who were speaking against the idea were more in number than those in favour of it. He challenged the latter to come and defend what they knew was correct.
Ebegba said, “The voices of those against the technology are louder, while those in support of it are not much heard. Scientific evidence should guide the facts about GMOs. Therefore, it is imperative for scientists to come out of their laboratories and tell Nigerians the inherent benefits of this technology and how it will transform our quest for food self sufficiency.
“The global debate on the environmental and health safety issues surrounding the practice and products of modern biotechnology will continue for a long time, but the arguments should be based on scientific evidence, not rumour, emotion, sympathy or hearsay.
“The NBMA is well-positioned to effectively manage and ensure safety in the application of modern biotechnology and use of genetically modified organisms in Nigeria, with a view to averting adverse impacts on human health and the environment.”
He also noted that the NBMA was established by government as a safety valve that would ensure that the practice of modern biotechnology did not pose any harm to Nigerians or the environment, adding that the public should trust government’s position in the regulation of modern biotechnology practice and GMOs.