Last Month, I participated in the Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety Workshop, organized by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB), Nigeria, Program for Biosafety System and other partners.
The event showcased series of presentations from scientists on the research around genetic engineered crops; Presentations from the Media on why Negative stories around genetic engineered crops sells faster than positive ones and presentations from science communicators proffering solutions and ways to appropriately address the public on genetic engineered crops.
High profile attendees like the Minster of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and FAO representative in Nigeria, urged participants to embrace the new science of Genetic modification as a tool that can contribute to a food secured Nigeria. One of the participants at the workshop expressed her concern about the dangers of genetically engineered crops and asked why it is such a controversial topic. These concerns were well addressed by the scientists and Science communicators present at the event using case studies of high genetic engineered crops adoption rate in other parts of the world.
One interesting strategy that was used to explain the technology to the farmers and the non-scientist present at the event was a drama presentation. This drama featured a poor farmer who struggles to spray his cotton farm, always having a poor yield and complaining until he met a colleague growing Bt. Cotton who gets higher yield without spraying a lot. It portrayed how genetically modified crops can improve productivity and also went ahead to explain how crops biofortified with extra Vitamin A, Iron and Zinc can be a saving grace to a mother whose children are malnourished. This is in line with the challenges farmers face in Nigeria especially most women in the rural areas.
This kind of workshop, seminars and a range of other events are ways Nigerians get to know more about genetically engineered crops. Awareness creation on genetically engineered crops has been on-going for the past 10 years and is made possible through OFAB Nigeria, an initiative founded by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation. These forum and events (always open to the public) is set up to correct the negative perceptions people have about the technology and present opportunities for exchange of ideas, experiences and knowledge around the science of genetically engineered crops, its safety and its benefits.
For more information, contact the Open forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa, Nigeria Chapter, National Biotechnology Development Agency Lugbe Abuja.