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Civil society groups reject IITA’s plan to grow genetically-modified cassava


<br />Civil society groups have rejected a plan by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to grow genetically-modified cassava in the country.

•Yobe partners FAO, ICRISAT on modern farming methods

Civil society groups have rejected a plan by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to grow genetically-modified cassava in the country. The Health of Mother Earth Foundation, along with 87 others civil society groups, disclosed their position in a statement.

The HOMEF Biosafety Project Manager, Joyce Okeoghene, said the IITA admitted that such approval had never been given anywhere in the world.

According to the groups, an application for the actualisation of ‘confined’ field trial of transgenic cassava had been submitted to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).

The groups stated that the trials would involve using genetically-modified cassava under a new gene- silencing technology that had never been tested in the country.
Okeoghene disclosed that the IITA collaborated with ETHZ laboratories in Zurich, Switzerland, to carry out the field trial in Nigeria.

The groups claimed that the plan is to “obtain storage roots with lower post-harvest physiological degradation without any loss of the nutritious starch.”

HOMEF Director, Ninmmo Bassey, added that the adoption would take total control of Nigeria’s food system by moving rapidly on the genetically-modified organisms (GMO) highway.

He listed the GMOs being canvassed in Nigeria to include beans, maize and cotton. Bassey lamented that the IITA, which farmers depend on for good quality and safe crops, could push for the GMOs.

He said the plan portends danger for Nigerian and African agriculture, adding that it would unwittingly exploit millions of Africans as human guinea pigs due to the latest genetic engineering experiment.

Meanwhile, the Yobe State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) has disclosed plans to train farmers on modern farming techniques under semi-arid weather and soil conditions.

The Programme Manager of ADP, Mustapha Goggobe, disclosed this at the weekend while addressing farmers and agricultural extension workers at the state’s secretariat complex, Damaturu

He said the scheme would be done in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Crops (ICRISAT).

The 40 farmers who would participate in the pilot programme are drawn from Nangere, Damaturu, Fune and Potiskum local councils.

He said the newly-developed seeds for sorghum, cowpea, groundnut and millet could be harvested after 65 days of planting, adding that about 6,000 farmers would benefit in the local councils.

A representative of ICRISAT, Dr. Ijantiku Ignatius Angarawal, said the programme became necessary because farmers make up 80 per cent of the labour force in the state.

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