We (a group of Nigerian farmers) are so much concerned about this demand that the G8 should not support GM crops in Africa and want to state how important it is that agricultural biotechnology be applied to achieve a sustainable development of agriculture in Nigeria.
As Africans and Nigerians, we appreciate the efforts of the EU to make a decision on our food system but then, we can do this for ourselves. We need the opportunity to make our own choices; also we need to have variety of options to choose from.
Our farmers have heard and seen testimonies from other African farmers in Burkina Faso, Sudan, Egypt and South Africa. We know that Spain, one of the European Union countries as of 2014 has been the largest producer of GM crops in Europe with 137,000 hectares (340,000 acres) of GM maize planted in 2013 equalling 20% of Spain’s maize production. We also Know that over 70% of the crops grown in the United States is genetically modified and Nigeria Imports majority of its food from these countries.
If the EU Members really want to take a good decision for us, they should know Nigeria is tired of importing so much and exporting less. You need to also consider what we stand to gain from commercializing these products.
The adoption of Genetically Engineered crops is very critical for us because we can no longer afford to depend so much on oil or neglect what agriculture can do for our economy. Our Population is on the increase and is expected to be the 3rd largest population in the world by 2020. Conventional agricultural practices are strictly inadequate to feed us. Our crop yield is majorly affected by insects, at the same time climate change issues are making our land less fertile due to drought, flooding and other harsh condition. We do not have luxury of debating so much on genetically engineered crops because we have limited options to solving our food crisis.
Our cowpea (which the EU has stopped us from exporting because of Pesticide residue) is the next staple crop after rice in Nigeria and Maruca insect reduces its yield by 60%. We spray a lot to enable us get enough yield and are tired of spraying. If we commercialize Bt. Cowpea, it can reduce spraying for us and also pesticides residues to enable us to export cowpea. Our Cotton industry has been in comatose because of lack of improved seeds resistant to pests. We know commercializing Bt. Cotton can increase our yield thereby generating more income for us. Our hungry and malnourished women can get more nutrients from consuming bio fortified Sorghum enriched with extra vitamin A, Iron and Zinc.
We hereby want to state categorically that we do not want another form of colonialism from this decision you are about to make for us. Let us have options to the seeds we can grow. Even though we know Agricultural Biotechnology is not the only solution to the challenges we face in the farm, we need to embrace it as an efficient, inclusive, climate-smart, sustainable, nutrition- and health-driven, and business-friendly technology to help us produce more food in order to ensure that no Nigerian goes to sleep hungry by 2025.
We hope you make the right decision at the Session.
Abdallah Yaya is a Member of Cowpea Association of Nigeria, Abuja chapter.