FG Launches GMO TELA Maize Seeds in Nigeria

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Nigeria’s federal government has launched a new Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) maize variety named TELA, despite widespread concerns and opposition from citizens. The initiative, ostensibly aimed at boosting maize production, has been criticized as prioritizing corporate and governmental interests over public health and ecological safety.

The TELA maize was developed at the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in collaboration with the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF). The project received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners.

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At the launch event in Abuja, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, claimed the government’s actions were intended to promote citizens’ welfare, health, and security. “The government will only do things that will promote the citizens’ welfare, health, and security,” he stated, though this assertion is met with skepticism from many Nigerians who feel their concerns are being ignored.

Professor Aggrey Ambali, Chairman of the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) Board of Trustees, highlighted the supposed benefits of TELA maize, including its potential to address the country’s annual maize production deficit. However, these claims do little to assuage fears about the health risks and environmental impact of GMO crops.

Environmentalists and agricultural experts argue that the introduction of GMO seeds like TELA maize poses significant health and ecological hazards. The resilience of these seeds against pests and drought, while beneficial on the surface, raises concerns about long-term sustainability and potential negative effects on biodiversity.

Nigeria became the second African country to approve GMO maize for commercial planting in February 2024, following discussions between Bill Gates and President Bola Tinubu in Riyadh. Critics argue that this decision reflects international pressures and corporate interests rather than the genuine needs and desires of the Nigerian populace.

The Executive Director of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr. Canisius Kanangire, praised the government for supporting the project. However, his commendation contrasts sharply with the growing resistance from local communities and advocacy groups who view the promotion of GMO seeds as a threat rather than a solution.

Source: West Africa Weekly

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