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A vote for GMO foods

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Biodiversity is good and must be encouraged. But we must always remember that agriculture itself entails human selection of particular plant species and variants for the purpose of food production. That is the reason we plant endless hectares of wheat, banana, cocoa, peanuts, yam, cassava, etc, after clearing and destroying other plants from their habitats so as to plant crops of interest.

The vast majority of those agitating against GMO foods are wantonly ignorant about the impact of genetically modified plants on global food production and chain. I have long concluded that it is best to leave them in the bliss of their own ignorance.

Except a person decides to abstain totally from the consumption of processed foods, it is virtually impossible not to daily eat GMO foods in some countries. For example, more than 70% of processed foods in grocery stores in the USA, Canada, and Australia, are from GMO crops! Everybody buying French fries in most fast food chains are partaking of GMO potatoes! Brazil, Argentina, India and China have already embraced some GMO crops. As China continues to emphasise food security, acceptance of GMO crops will grow.

Moreover, do countries (such as Nigeria) that import a substantial portion of their food have total control on what they consume?

Needless to say, nature has genetically modified living things in the past. It is currently quietly modifying them and shall keep modifying them!

Leaps in the collective progress of humankind from the age of wanderers and hunters to that of settlers and farmers culminated in contemporary agriculture. This has involved deliberate plant breeding for preferred plant genotypes.

Current hoopla about GMO crops are largely caused by conspiracy theorists who have embraced falsehoods and half-truths.

First, contrary to what they claim, and the fears they propagate, GMO plants do not affect human fertility.

Second, the misrepresentation of the views of Bill Gates is the stock in trade of conspiracy theorists. Bill Gates is the convenient punching bag of conspiracy theorists. Their allegations had always been wrong; they remain wrong.

Bill Gates is an advocate of birth control. I am equally an advocate of birth control. The truth is that neither Bill Gates nor I have ever advocated forced or involuntary birth control.

Africans must not be steered into a mindset that disregards the dangers of overpopulation. The term refers to the number of people in a given habitat in relationship to the inadequacy of the resources needed to facilitate the well-being of that number of people.

We must remind ourselves that when the British started administering the Nigerian protectorates, the population of the UK was about twice that of Nigeria. When Britain granted independence to Nigeria about 100 years later in 1960, the populations of the UK and Nigeria were approximately equal. Today, less than 64 years after its independence, Nigeria’s population is already more than twice that of the UK!

In the intervening period since 1960, the UK has grown its economy by leaps and bounds, greatly expanded and improved its infrastructures and enhanced the well-being of its citizenry. By contrast, Nigerian economy has continually failed to reach its enormous potential. Essential infrastructures have been allowed to suffer atrophy and decay. Consequently, the well-being of Nigerian citizens has largely collapsed.

Elsewhere, China, without being urged to do so by any foreigners, for a long time executed an aggressive program of population control. Nigeria is currently the 6th most populous country in the world. It is estimated that by year 2054, Nigeria will be the 3rd most populous country in the world. That is just thirty years from today.

We do not appear to be cognizant of the gale of problems rushing towards Nigeria. Whatever problems we are facing from the herder-farmer clashes are nothing compared with the conflicts that will erupt all over Nigeria because of struggles for access to inland water resources.

How shall we avert this predicament?

No one would dispute the rights of any country to refuse aid in any form from donor agencies. On their own part, most donor agencies do not force their aids on recipient countries. Aids are granted and received on terms of mutual agreement. Matter of fact, it is the prerogative of recipient countries to grant or deny entry visa into their territory and domain.

That said, stark realities of the contemporary world is that many essential products and services are in dire shortage in many parts of the world. This is particularly the case in many of the so-called developing countries. The absence of alternatives is the predicament of Africans.

We know that developed countries keep on developing. Matter of fact, development in developed countries constantly outpaces that of others. As such, the term “developing countries” is a mere euphemism for underdeveloped countries! Largely, these are the countries that missed out on the scientific and technological revolutions of earlier centuries along with their innovative transformations of diverse spheres of human achievements that include defence, housing, transportation, health care and agriculture.

In my secondary school days, the world was awash with gory news of starvation in India. At Ilesa Grammar School, we made weekly contributions into SELF DENIAL FUNDS that provided aids for starving areas of the world. Today, India has leap-frogged in development because their leaders vowed that India will never again lag in science and technology.

Unfortunately, too many Africans are trapped in a mindset of needless obscurantism. In the guise of looking before they leap, so as to avoid pitfalls, they look and look but rarely leap!

Less than four years ago, Nigerian social media peddled endless foreboding tales about 5G telephony. The apocalyptic warnings about the rise of the antichrist gave the silly impression that our fears were sufficient to prevent the rise of the man of sin! Meanwhile, the USA was busy playing catch-up with 5G technology so that they might not lose market share to China and Korea. Today, the USA has emerged as the global leader in the rollout and use of 5G mobile phone technology.

Most scientific and technological innovations come with advantages and disadvantages. The use of any invention is a calculated assessment of its benefits to risks ratio. More people died from typhus fever, relapsing fever and malaria during the first World War than from bullets and military firepower! Deaths from parasitic diseases have become far less common among warriors because of the invention of DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons that were sprayed on military personnel and uniforms! These protected against lice, ticks and other arthropod vectors of sundry diseases.

Today, it is inconceivable that humans will be sprayed with such pesticides! Matter of fact, DDT has long been banned in many countries. Science keeps coming with better solutions that permit total discard of solutions that were once widely used and regarded as indispensable.

Apollo XI was guided to the moon by a gigantic computer at NASA headquaters. Its storage capacity of 76 megabytes was considered to be mind-boggling at the time. Today, I am typing all these musings on an iPhone with 5 gigabytes of storage. Yes, my iPhone has 6,700% of the storage space that guided humans to the moon in 1969!

The point made here is that science addresses problems in a stepwise progressive manner. Those who get frightened by problems that have not yet arisen might sentence themselves to lagging in the fierce competition that life entails. May Africa never lag again.

Lastly, we will never hear the last of GMOs! They will be part of the food supply in the foreseeable future. Alarms will continue to be raised whether or not these are based on verifiable facts. It is not a secret that for decades, cassava production per hectare of farmland by farmers in Nigeria is far less than the production by farmers in Thailand and some other countries. Whereas Thailand exports about two billion dollars worth of cassava products annually, Nigeria exports are far less than 1% of this! Nigerians can make all the noise they want on social media. They remain largely insignificant to global exports of cassava, corn, banana, rice and beans.

Talking about beans, whereas Nigeria dominates the world in the production and export of Cowpea (black eyed beans), Nigeria lags in its production per hectare of farmland. It reflects the long known fact (from the days of Prof Victor Oyenuga of the University Of Ibadan) that whereas an American farmer produces enough food to feed 167 persons, the average Nigerian farmer does not produce enough for more than ten persons beside himself! As more persons abandon our farms, our food crisis can only escalate.

I can bet that 30 years from now, GMO beans will be regular imports into Nigeria. By then, you and I will be gone, along with most of our respective age mates, but those alive then will wonder if our generation comprised retarded folks who could not embrace a means of geometrically increasing food production.

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