By Ginika Okoye
Abuja – The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, says Nigeria has not adopted Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or genetic technology in agriculture and food production.
The minister said this when he appeared on a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.
Ogbeh said that although genetic modifications had been taking place in America, Nigeria had yet to adopt the technology to boost its food production.
He said that the Federal Government was, however, repositioning its research institutes and universities of agriculture across the country to conduct research on how to boost agricultural production and attain food security.
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“I am aware there is skepticism, not to say fear.
“But the Americans will say that the Europeans are simply jealous, that as far as they are concerned, genetic modification is permanently taking place; that is what they say.
“Bees carry pollen from one plant to another and transfer characters; so, the Americans are at ease with it (GMOs). The Europeans say no, they will rather settle for hybrid seeds.
“We officially have not yet embraced GMOs, we are watching.
“This is why the research institutes and the universities have to concentrate on agriculture. That is their job: checking these things and making sure they find solutions to it,’’ he said.
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Ogbeh expressed concern over the ageing farming population in the country.
He said that the Federal Government had been encouraging youths as well as women to engage in agriculture to boost food production in the country.
On the Federal Government’s Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme, the minister said that the N30 billion, which the government owed agro-dealers, would soon be defrayed.
Describing the scheme as a good initiative, Ogbeh, nonetheless, said that it was marred by corruption and abuses by the dealers.
He said that claims for seeds alone in the GES scheme totaled over N9 billion.
The minister said that the government was restructuring the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) to ensure the reduction of interest rates on loans to seven per cent.
According to him, if this happens, the GES scheme will no longer be necessary.
He, however, assured farmers of the Federal Government’s support via the provision of improved seeds and modern equipment to make farming easier.