By Prince Okafor
The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) in collaboration with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Bill now, stressing that it will unlock potentials across Nigeria’s Agricultural ecosystem while protecting farmers.
Speaking during an Expert review webinar with the theme “Expert review of the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Bill: Significance and Constraints,” NESG Board member and Co-Founder/Managing Partner of Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition Ltd, Dr. Ndidi Nwuneli said the PVP bill has an important role to play across Nigeria’s Agricultural ecosystem.
She stated that Without access to alternative sources of food or income, smallholder farmers are highly vulnerable to fluctuations in weather patterns, changes in government support and shifts in both local and international markets and there is a need for all stakeholders to work collectively to transform Nigeria’s food ecosystem.
Director-general of the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Dr. Philip Ojo, while delivering a presentation on the “significance of the PVP Act to the Seeds Subsector and the Nigerian Food and agriculture ecosystem” said that the PVP Bill provides intellectual property protection to breeders to help get the best genetics which aids food security.
He said that the NASC and other stakeholders have helped facilitate the PVP bill which is currently awaiting presidential assent and that the Bill is a legal designation to protect plant breeders and help encourage breeders to get incentives from their inventions.
During the Panel session, Dr. Olumuyiwa Bamidele Alaba, a Trade Policy Expert, Trade Law Centre (TRALAC), Western Cape region of South Africa said the World Trade Organisation (WTO) does not have specific laws around PVP but encourages countries to interact and sign negotiating treaties among each other and that there are international laws that espouse Protection of breeders right and that of locals and the investors.
Director of the ecological think-tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Mr. Nnimmo Bassey said that the productivity of small-scale farmers is always underestimated and more support should be given to them as opposed to transnational corporations.
He stated that farmers have over the years successfully selected the best seeds and research has shown that the future of food production is reliant on small-scale farmers.
Mr. Bassey revealed that certain clauses of the PVP Bill are inimical to the growth of small-scale farmers and raises huge questions on Health and biosafety considering how unsafe Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are.
Mr. Bassey said that there is a huge gap of trust issues and the interest of the multinational seeds company has nothing to do with small-scale farmers and that the present situation presents an opportunity to address salient issues in Nigeria’s Agricultural ecosystem before the bill is signed into law.
While responding to Mr. Bassey, Dr. Folarin Sunday Okelola of the National Agricultural Seeds Council, Nigeria said that the PVP aims to improve Nigeria’s food security through plant breeding which is an expensive and long-term process.
He stated that the PVP gives a farmer right to choices and that the Bill has little or nothing to do with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) and neither does it relate with commercialization or market regulation. Dr. Okelola reiterated that the bill will encourage and protect the results of plant breeding, ensuring adequate return on investments and help to stimulate inventions and innovation that will transform the agricultural sector.
Program officer for the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) cowpea at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation Abuja, Nigeria, Dr. Ijeoma Akaogu said that the private sector needs to come into the agricultural sector to encourage breeders, noting that the PVP will encourage plant breeders and promote foreign trade and investment.
She revealed that it takes more than 15 years to develop a new variety and that there are more than 500 plant breeders in Nigeria, presenting a good justification for Nigeria to have a PVP bill.