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Director Allays Fears On Infected Crops

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The Director, Agric Biotechnology and Bio-resources, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Dr Andrew Keswet  has advised that the virus Gene VI, found in 54 Genetically Modified (GM) crops, should not cause panic among Nigerians.

Dr Keswet said this in an interview with newsmen in Lagos recently.

The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), recently raised safety concerns about Genetically Modified crops, after an independent research uncovered a toxic virus gene, called Gene VI, in 54 of the 86 approved for commercial growing in the US.

The study, conducted by the EU, showed that standard tests for GM foods might have missed a gene potentially poisonous to humans.

The EFSA researchers concluded that the presence of segments of Gene VI “might result in unintended phenotypic changes”.

A phenotypic change, the reports said, include changes that could cause the creation of proteins toxic to humans or cause changes in plants that could make them vulnerable to pests, which they were recreated to be protected from.

Kewswet said the EU discovery, which has made experts to call for a review of regulations for conducting standard tests for GM crops, did not invalidate Nigeria’s Bio-Safety Bill drafted before the finding in 2013.

“If you have seen our Bio-Safety Bill, you will find out that all the concerns being raised have been taken care of, and so, there will be no need reviewing it.

“Nigerian Scientists will not put Nigerians into any bad situation. We will do our best and make sure that whatever we are giving to the public stands the test of time.

“Be rest assured that what we are doing in biotechnology is the best for our people, and we will only follow internationally approved procedures,” he said.

The Director said that some people were apprehensive of GM products because they did not understand that in one way or the other, they might have consumed a GM product, such as GM wheat, corn and soya, in one form or another.

He said that the discovery of the virus gene did not mean that GM food were unhealthy for human consumption.

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Agriculture

IITA Develops New Potato Variety

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Empowering, Novel, Agri-Business Led, Employment, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (ENABLE TAAT) has recently developed Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) species to tackle malnutrition and reduce diabetes in Africa.
The ENABLE TAAT Field Trainer of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA),  Mr Murtalab Adedamola, made this known in Ibadan yesterday.
He said that the development of the potato species was one of the plans of IITA, aimed at combating malnutrition and attaining food security in Africa.  Adedamola said that OFSP was different from the Irish potato, adding that it contained a lot of water, Vitamin A, high carotene and low level of sugar. “It has two varieties – King J and Mothers’ Delight, and it can be used for baking cake, snacks and bread.
“It is stress-free, its cultivation cycle is within three months; it is not a tuber but a root and it does not go deep into the soil like cassava.
“The growth continues even after harvesting, it is good for children and diabetic patients because of its low level of sugar. Farmers can plant a hectare with just 500kg. vines of OFSP, which multiplies.
“They should cut the vines together, bundle them together, weigh them and then plant them. Farmers can plant at a depth of 20 or 25 cm and at an angle of 45 degrees because the spacing can determine the yield,” he said.  Adedamola advised farmers to always apply MPK fertiliser to the crop after two weeks of planting, as the exercise would go a long way to improve the yield if the crop had access to water.  The field trainer said that the maintenance of an OFSP farm would not require much weeding, adding that the soil would crack while its flowers would shoot out to signal the appropriate time for harvesting.  He, however, warned that the King J variety of OFSP was better grown in the northern parts of the country, while the cultivation of the Mothers’ Delight type would thrive in the South.
“In Cameroon, we have four varieties of OFSP and in Cote d’Ivoire, there are six varieties. Farmers are planting it already but the produce lacks market because people are not aware of its numerous benefits. “When people learn about its benefits, they will start patronising the farmers well; we will definitely have more varieties of it in Nigeria because it is a crop that can transform the livelihood of potato farmers perfectly,’’ he added.

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Agriculture

Assembly Approves N1.5bn Agric Loan

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The Niger State House of Assembly has passed a resolution granting approval to the state government to access a N1.5bn facility for the implementation of the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).
The House passed the resolution yesterday following the presentation of the report of Joint Committees on Finance and Agriculture.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Alhaji Abdullahi Mammagi, said it interfaced with relevant stakeholders to ascertain the justification for the request made.
Mammagi noted that the facility was being offered at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum and 60 months repayment period by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“From the interface held, the committee found that the Federal Government had offered a window of facility to states to support implementation of AADS in states.
“The CBN, through Zenith Bank has offered to provide the of N1.5bn. The facility is offered for a period of 60 months, at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum.
“This is deemed to be highly competitive in terms of what obtains in the banking industry.
“Niger State has keyed into the programme as its implementation would stimulate and support socio-economic development in the state,” he added.
According to him, the repayment cost was manageable, adding that it would not be too much burden on the monthly cash flow of the state.
Similarly, the House commenced debate on the 2019 budget by the governor.

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Agriculture

NGO Urges FG To Increase Agric Financing

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The Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN), an NGO, has appealed to the Federal Government to increase its funding on agriculture, especially for women and youth farmers to increase their yields.
The Founder of the initiative,  Mrs Nkiruka Nnaemego, made the call on Monday in Abuja at the Yfarm National Colloquium on Attracting Public Financing in Sustainable Agriculture for Youth and Women Small Scale Farmers.
Nnaemego said that the Nigerian government had committed to the 2014 Malabo Principles of ensuring increase in public funding to at least 10 per cent of the national budget to the agricultural sector.
According to her, this will enable the countries effectively implement their programmes to reduce hunger and increase productivity among in Africa.
She said that this commitment had not been achieved and it was affecting the productivity of small scale farmers, who consisted of about 70 per cent of the country’s farming population.
“This colloquium provides a unique platform for stakeholders in agriculture to brainstorm on innovative models and approaches for attracting public financing and government involvement in agriculture.
“From the Malabo declaration, which African Heads of State agreed to commit 10 per cent of their countries’ budgets to agriculture, it is unfortunately that Nigeria is still below three per cent.
“Agriculture is the way to go now since the country is looking for other options aside oil. We need to increase finance in agriculture.
“Although the Federal Government is trying, but it should try harder,” she said.
She explained that Yfarm project’s goal was to promote a youth/women-led agribusiness society by reducing poverty, thereby increasing active youth/women participation in sustainable agriculture by 2020.
She said that Yfarm Project had been at the forefront of policy advocacy, media engagement, capacity building and mentoring of rural and vulnerable youth/women in some parts of Africa.
“We celebrate outstanding youths and women, provide access to markets and business networking through our National and African Youth Agric Festivals and Concerts,” she stated.
The Project Coordinator, Food and Agriculture, Actionaid Nigeria,  Mr Azubike Nwokoye appealed to the Federal Government to create an enabling environment to attract private investment. He further urged government at all levels to do their parts by increasing public financing on agriculture across all areas with  comparative advantages.
farming season?
”That is a failure in its own already.”
Soni appealed to the government to make available inputs by January not in April and May when such inputs were not needed.
The Programme Officer, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)  Mr Alphonsus Onwuemeka said that agriculture was in the concurrent list and urged the state governments to play their parts to lessen the burden on the Federal Government.
He acknowledged the Federal Government’s support to agriculture and urged women to take advantage of the gender unit created by government at the Ministry of Agriculture to handle women challenges.

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