The Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association, NTMA, has expressed its approval for the introduction of genetically modified cotton into the country.
In a statement Wednesday by its acting Director-General, Hamma Kwajaffa, the association said a timely introduction of GM cotton, especially the Bt cotton variety, which has high resistance to pests, is capable of repositioning Nigeria’s moribund textile industry.
The association’s statement is coming barely two days after several rights groups and faith-based organisations kicked against an attempt by Mosanto Agriculture Ltd., a supplier of agricultural products, to obtain approval for environmental introduction and commercial production of genetically modified cotton and maize from the National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA.
The groups’ concerns stemmed from their believe that any introduction of GM products portends grave consequences for the health and environmental safety of Nigerians.
The groups also argued that the climate in Africa is not conducive for genetically modified cotton and any attempt to introduce it would fail.
But in its approval statement, NTMA said the introduction of GM cotton will not harm the environment and will benefit farmers and improve textile quality in the country.
“This protection is expected to improve cotton lint quality and farmers will benefit increase yields due to reduced insect-pest damage.”
“The agency (NBMA) in furtherance of its mandate, has commenced the process of reviewing this application presently before it. The application is currently undergoing a science-based review process together with relevant regulatory agencies and independent experts to ascertain that the proposed product is safe to human and animal health and to the environment.”
Mr. Kwajaffa said the textile industry has endured a shortage of cotton in recent times.
“Of recent the Textile Industry has had a barrage of shortage of the commodity and even when available it by far surpasses the international price so, the thinking is that when it is produced in surplus, local industry should be able to purchase it at regulated prices and again farmers would be able to export,” he said.
Mr. Kwajaffa highlighted the opportunity cost of cotton farming in the country.
“Cotton farming in Nigeria over the years has suffered because the opportunity cost of planting cotton has remained high. Cotton does not compete favourably against other lower risk crops and this has led to a dwindling of farmers involved in cultivating the crop over time.”
He, therefore, urged regulators to embark on sensitising stakeholders about the benefits of genetically modified cotton in the country, adding that several countries across the world have embraced the technology.
“Finally it behoves on the Bt Cotton regulators to engage the farmers in high level education as the whole GMO farming emanates from educated farmers like in the US, India, Brazil, Greece, Argentina etc.
“It is estimated that about 30,000 Nigerians are employed in the textile industry and an additional one million small farmers and labourers are both in direct cotton production and within the value chain, probably supporting five million more people. This is a sharp contrast from over 400,000 people employed across over 250 textile mills in the country in the 80s.”