Biotechnology, media, and food security in Nigeria

The pursuit of making modern biotechnology acceptable to farmers will never be actualized without the creation of a mechanism for effective sharing of scientific information and facts about agricultural biotechnology using various media platforms.
The role of science, technology and innovation (STI) in achieving sustainable development cannot be overemphasized; in fact no developed nation had attained its developed status without a significant contribution of science and technology including of course agricultural biotechnology.
Thus, whereas agricultural biotechnology helps nations attain self-sufficiency in food production and subsequently achieve food security, which is critical for achieving sustainable development, the media could be said to be the perfect bridge between modern biotechnology and the people, particularly farmers.
The media’s ability to translate complex scientific jargons to simpler, understandable language for policymakers and the general public will help foster public interest on science, technology and innovation issues in Nigeria; the media being the perfect bridge between science, policymakers and the general public.
Dr Rose Gidado, Nigeria country coordinator of the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) – an initiative of the Kenya-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) aimed at bridging the gap between scientists and stakeholders in the agric sector – believes media being the platform via which information is disseminated to farmers with multiplier effects “acts a bridge between science and the people.” Dr Gidado therefore said OFAB Nigeria was organizing “‘seeing is believing’ tours particularly for the media which plays a very key role in our work since whatever information you disseminate through the media is likely to have multiplier effect; the media acts as a bridge between science and the people.
We therefore take them to the field were trial crops are being grown so they can see that GM crops are also natural, as they say, what you say you believe.” While speaking at the recently held second OFAB Nigeria Media Awards in Abuja, Dr Gidado charged the media to stand with science in its reporting by not trying to balance “scientific facts with unscientific lies”.
“Science is a body of knowledge, a collection of fact, a provider of solutions, it is evidence-based and so shouldn’t be politicized,” she said.
The OFAB Media Awards, which was initiated in 2017 by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) across the seven countries in which OFAB exists, is aimed at recognizing the efforts of the media and bringing journalists closer to OFAB, as part of their efforts to change the orientation of Nigerian farmers to begin to embrace genetic modification technology.
The awards was also meant to celebrate deserving journalists and media practitioners who have made significant contributions to raising awareness about agricultural biotechnology in Nigeria by recognizing exemplary journalism that stimulates best practices in adoption of agricultural technologies, particularly agricultural biotechnology.
While speaking at the event, Prof Alex Akpa, acting director general of Nigeria’s National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) said the media’s contribution to the demystification and interpretation of modern biotechnology to the general public was worthy of praises and therefore urged the media to work with his agency in the promotion of modern biotechnology towards ensuring biotechnology was successfully deployed in all spheres of agriculture in Nigeria.
He however urged the media to exercise caution in its quest to give people the opportunity to express their fundamental human right of freedom of speech and decried the fact that there were people parading themselves as scientists and thus sabotaging the Nigerian government’s efforts to enhance agricultural productivity and bring about self-sufficiency in food production.
“The media has continued to celebrate such people whether knowingly or unknowingly, it is important to state here that no scientist is a jack of all trades.
Just like media practitioners have beats and areas of coverage so do scientists.
For journalists to keep interviewing and quoting an architect on issues of molecular biology or genetic modification is an anomaly which the media must not encourage,” he charged.
In a speech read at the awards, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Nigeria’s minister of science and technology, extended a hand of fellowship to the Nigerian media urging journalists to work with Nigerian scientists to promote science and technology to the government, as the major driver for sustainable economic development in Nigeria.
“I want to extend a hand of fellowship to the media today, your role as society watch-dogs is recognised by the constitution and therefore you must work with our scientists to ensure that government [put] emphasis on the need to use science and technology as the bedrock of our development,” said Dr Onu whose speech was read by Mr Bitrus Nabasu, his ministry’s permanent secretary.
“We have competent scientists who are competing favourably with their counterparts from other parts of the world and journalists need to support and work with them to enhance their research and propel development.
Jointly, we can work together to make Nigeria greater.” Doubtlessly, the pursuit of making agricultural technologies and particularly modern biotechnology known and acceptable to the general public especially farmers will never be actualized without the creation of a mechanism for effective sharing of scientific information and facts about agricultural biotechnology using various media platforms.

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