Genetically modified beans safe for consumption, scientists insist
Following fears and concerns by some civil society orgnisations and farmers over the safety of the newly commercialised Bt Cowpea (beans), scientists have reaffirmed that the pulse is safe for consumption.
The president of the National Biotechnology and Bio-safety Consortium (NBBC), Prof. Celestine Agboru, during a news conference in Abuja, debunked most of the claims by people kicking against the technology, insisting that “the crop does not contain any harmful element that is dangerous to human health.”
According to him, the pod borer resistant Cowpea was developed by Nigerians and not foreigners. It was developed at the Institute of Agricultural Research, Zaria and the research took about 10 years before it was commercialised. We at NBBC followed the process up to the point of presentation”
Agboru added that the development of the Pod-borer Resistant Cowpea (PBR-Cowpea) was a confirmation of the reality that Nigeria could provide home grown solution to pest and diseases problem in agriculture.
Pointing out that the product had placed Nigeria among committee of nations which have deployed science and technology to addressing their challenges, he described people condemning the achievement of Nigerian scientists as enemies of the country who were bent on opening up the country to unregulated GMOs and chemicals.
The scientist maintained that it was not true that the beans could not be replanted ot that the crop pollutes the soil and prevents other crops from being grown on the same piece of land. He said that with the commercialisation of GM beans, Nigeria could retain its position as the largest beans producer in the world, and the country would no longer spend its scarce resources in purchasing 500,000 tonnes of beans annually from other countries, adding that there would be reduced used of chemicals by farmers.
The professor of Plant Science and Biotechnology highlighted other benefits of the BT Cowpea to include the protection of the human, animal populations and the environment from pollution of chemicals used by farmers, adding that it would also attract the younger generation of farmers.
Pointing out that Nigerian beans are not accepted at the international market due to heavy use of chemicals on farms and in storage, he said some of the chemicals being used in the country for beans had been banned in Europe for the past 10 years.
Ogboru, however, called on the Federal Government to ignore the call by the non-scientific activists to ban the GM beans, as it is safe and poses no harm to humans or animals, urging them to increase budgetary allocations to universities and research institutes to enable them to undertake researches that solve national challenges.
The National Coordinator, Real Life Global Humanitarian Foundation, Akinsoji Akinsola, said that as responsible civil society groups, they are in support of any meaningful technology that would remove stress farmers go through.
Akinsola, who coordinates of over 76 non-governmental organisatons, said the only way to make farming profitable in the country is to introduce technologies, commending scientists for the innovation.