For a Safer Earth, Healthier Climate

NBRDA Tasks Media on Scientific Reportage

– says adoption of biotechnology will save Nigeria significant foreign exchange

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

As the controversies and counter-information against adopting biotechnology and other scientific techniques in developing Nigerian agriculture rage, the federal government has called on Journalists to use their power to bridge the gap between truth and misinformation.

This is even as the National Biotechnological Research and Development Agency (NBRDA) says the use of biotechnology will counteract the annual fall army worm-induced losses exceeding US$268m and will also save Nigeria a significant foreign exchange in the importation of maize over 400,000 metric tons and $15.2m annually.

In his opening remarks, Abdullahi Mustapha, the director general/chief executive officer (CEO), NBRDA   made the call at a one-day training for Journalists on Science and Communication which held in Abuja today, Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

The training was jointly organized by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, Nigeria Chapter, an initiative of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) under the auspices of the National Biotechnology Research and Development Agency (NBRDA).

According to Abdullahi Mustapha “In an era characterized by abundance of information, disinformation and of course disinformation, the role of the media as a base of truth and guidance of democracy has never been more powerful.  He added that their duty is not merely to report an event, but to scrutinize, analyze and contextualize them within the framework of evidence-based knowledge”.

He alleged that “In the last few months, there has been an orchestrated campaign against the deployment of biotechnology tools to enhance agriculture. The same technology that has saved the world and providers from healer diseases, including diabetes, polio and of course recently COVID-19.

“Science is not merely a subject of academic inquiry, it is a methodology, a rigorous process of observation, experimentation and peer review that forms the foundation of our understanding of the natural world. In a world grappling with complex challenges, from climate change to global pandemics, scientific literacy is more crucial than ever”.

“Gentlemen of the press, it is high time you start asking questions and seek to find out the basis of the campaign against the technology. Why is it not accepted in the health sector? And then you should ask the question, why is it not accepted in the agricultural sector? The objectivity must be your guiding principle, an unwavering commitment to presenting facts without bias or distortion.

He stated that as gatekeepers of information, the media have a duty to separate truth from falsehood, to challenge assertions and to hold power to account, regardless of political affiliations or vested interests. He maintained that factual reporting is the cornerstone of journalism. It is incumbent upon you to verify the accuracy of your sources, collaborate and corroborate information from multiple angles and refrain from sensationalism or conjecture.

“Your audience relies on you as a trusted source of information and you must not betray their trust with careless reporting or unchecked rumour.  However, beyond mere reporting lies a deeper responsibility to integrate science into your narratives, to prevent evidence-based knowledge about rhetoric and conjecture. Science is not merely a subject of academic inquiry, no, and peer review that forms the foundation of our understanding of the natural world”

“As media practitioners, you have the power to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the public, to translate complex concepts into accessible narratives, and to foster a culture of critical thinking and inquiry. But this task requires more than mere lip service to science. It demands a concerted effort to cultivate partnership with scientists, researchers and experts across disciplines, to seek out accurate and reliable sources of information, and to present scientific findings in a manner that is both compelling and comprehensive.”

“I urge you to embrace your role as continued custodians of truth, champions of objectivity and ambassadors of science. Let your wars be guided by the pursuit of knowledge, the quest for truth, and the noble idea of journalism. For in a world besieged by ignorance and falsehood, the light of truth shines brightest in the hands of those who dare to seek it”

In her presentation, the Science of Agricultural Biotechnology, Rose M. Gidado, the director, of NBRDA, said Agricultural biotechnology is a vital tool for sustainable agriculture and food security.

“She said the role of Agricultural Biotechnology in transforming the world food system, includes the development of improved seeds, better varieties of staples such as (Maize, rice, sorghum, millet, yam cassava, sweet potato for food, raw materials for industries, feed and forage developed produced by marker-assisted conventional breeding, vegetative propagation, hybridization and where appropriate, GM technologies.”

Gidado said “the adoption of the biotech innovation will counteract the annual fall army worm-induced losses exceeding US$268m. It will also save Nigeria a significant foreign exchange in the importation of maize over 400,000 metric tons and $15.2m annually”

It is estimated that two hundred and sixty-eight billion naira ($268b) is spent annually on the purchase of chemical insecticides used to spray maize in Nigeria

Other papers were presented by Alex Abutu, AATF, Yusuf Ali, the Nations bureau chief, Alli Hakeem, former editor-in-chief, NAN, Diran Onifade, editor-in-chief AfriccaSTI and Onche Odeh Bishop, Editor, AfricaSTI.

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