By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The Institute of Agricultural Research, IAR, Samaru, Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Monday, allayed fears of Nigerians over the newly approved TELA Maize on affecting their health.
The assurance was given by the Executive Director, IAR, Prof Mohammed Ishiyaku, at a press conference held in Abuja, while explaining about the benefits of TELA Maize.
According to Ishiayaku the nutrition value of TELA Maize varieties are not different from the conventional maize known to Nigerians
He said: “On nutrition, this new varieties are no different with the others in terms of nutritional contents compared to our conventional maize varieties.
“So they have the same nutritional benefits. The traits these varieties are developed are for tolerance for drought and also protective cover against the fall army-worm and stem-borer.
“For all other characteristics it is like normal maize. You can use it in pap (Akamu), cornflakes, and others, it grants the same nutrition.
“For TELA Maize, we have checked the nutritional components side by side with non-GM maize we have realized that they have exact nutritional composition.
“We have checked for known allergies-biochemical compounds that illicit reaction when these products are consumed; it could be in terms of itching, breed improvements and others.
“None of these allergies are contained in this variety. So, therefore, we are leveraging on the potential economic benefits that accrue to our society that is why we engaged in this.
“As far as drought is concerned we could not conventionally develop tolerance to drought at this level that is found in TELA Maize, and at the same time there is no single maize variety that is immune against the attack of either stem-borer or full army-worm.”
However, he also urged Nigerians not to worry by people showing concern about GM, “The same concern has been expressed previously to other new technologies through human history.
“Any scientific product can only be judged using scientific tools. You can’t judge science with emotions, perceived spirituality and so on. Science is not tested that way we use scientific tools to judge scientific products.
“This is a scientific product, there are scientific tools that are put in place agreed internationally, and not only in Nigeria but the whole world including Europeans who have been dragging their feet more than any other segment of the world who on the use of GM.
“They themselves have gotten convinced that as far as science is concerned there is nothing that causes any threat to the safety of the product of GM foods.
“I have mentioned the European food authority came back later on to recognize that there is no concern on the use of GM.
“We should read in between the lines as Africans why I don’t claim that the tools of genetic engineering is there to solve all human problems but there are those problems of human development that cannot be sold conventional but can leverage on the opportunities provided but by genetically engineering to find solution to them.
“When they prove to be potentially of solution to problems they have to be tested scientifically, tested over and over until such a time that there is no issue of concern and for this is for GM technology.
“So these are the situations we are leveraging on opportunities to our development problems. I think that is what it is and I will urge Nigerians that if there is anything of concern, we are going to inform Nigerians scientifically.
“So far there is nothing to get concerned about. It is as safe as other products or conventional.”
Also explaining on the issue of farmers’ access to TELA Maize seeds, Prof Rabiu Adamu, of IAR said, “Accessing the seed is on this arrangement; breeders and foundation seeds will be produced by IAR, and then registered competitive seed companies will be engaged on a licensing basis for them to produce certified seeds from which farmers buy.
“We are not going to leave them for the condition of the licensing will include a lot of certification from both our sides.
“That of the National Agricultural Seeds Council is their legal mandate to carry out their own, but ours is an additional one that is why we call it stewardship, it is not regulatory.
“We are going to do our own control in access to minimum requirement to ensure sustenance of integrity of the seed material.”