Biotechnolgy experts at the weekend admonished Nigerians to ignore frightening and untrue stories about proven technology and not allow such tales to hinder the country’s advancement in the sector.
The experts gave the advice at the 2019 3rd edition of the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, Nigeria Chapter Media Award Dinner in Abuja.
Dr Rose Gidado, Country Coordinator of (OFAB) in Nigeria, organizers of the award, in her speech said that Science and Technology is not complete without communication.
“The Award was initiated to celebrate the tremendous work that journalists have done and recognise the important role of the media in shifting Nigeria’s opinion out of the recesses of dormancy by giving a voice to truth.
“Nigerian journalists have dominated the last two editions of the OFAB Africa award at the continental level having won the best and overall prizes, and to say that we are proud would be an understatement,’’ she added.
Gidado said that there is no developed country of the world that has achieved any meaningful social development without scientific and technological innovation.
“Africa’s chance to benefit from these technologies lies in its ability to efficiently communicate its potential benefits and shouldn’t be detracted by myths that have been proven false, time and again.
“The successful environmental/commercial approval and adoption of two genetically modified crops – cotton and cowpea are proof that Nigerians want a better country.
“Science and technology are at the base of solving our most pertinent problems, from climate change to food security and health, among others, towards ensuring sustainable development in Nigeria’’.
She said that in the past few years, the media has been a veritable ally in the communication of credible scientific facts surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“They have worked with us in demystifying genetic modification and enlightening our people, especially farmers, grassroots communities, CSO’s, policymakers on the power as well as the efficacy of this technology.
“So we must all ensure that the country makes use of science and technology to be greater than it is today,’’ Gidado added.
Prof. Celestine Aguoru, President, Nigerian Biosafety and Biotechnology Consortium (NBBC) advised that only professionals should speak on specific burning issues concerning their field.
“Only experts who are practitioners and researchers in the field of modern biotechnology understand the paradigm shift from the earlier stage to the current position.
“The development and application of modern biotechnology in dealing with environmental, health and agricultural problems that have defied conventional approaches is happening so fast, so non-experts may not understand and keep pace with it due to limited knowledge.
“The media must as a matter of urgency distinguish between experts who provide accurate information and pedestrians who dabble into subjects that they have no training in’’.
He said the media determines, directs and changes the narratives on every subject or discourse: and therefore should profile the pedigree of every one making comments on the application of modern technology in Nigeria, to sieve out the grains from the chaff.
Dr. Doyin Odubanjo, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Academy of Science, in his keynote address said that science has a great potential to drive the kind of change we want to see in our country.
“In this century, applying innovative science will take us farther than we have gone.
“The best way to prevent a subject from becoming controversial is to use verifiable information, in context, from reliable sources – truthful, accurate, thorough and complete reporting.
“Today, successes in vaccination and management of diabetes all over the world are as a result of the application of genetic modification’’.
Other stakeholders at the event included Prof. Alex Akpa, Acting Director-General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Dr Vincent Isegbe, Director-General, Nigeria Quarantine Service, representative of Director-General of NBMA among others.
OFAB Africa organizes an award ceremony every year to encourage journalists and motivate them to do their best.
This year`s awards were in three categories, namely: Best TV, Best Radio and Best Print.
Some of the awardees are Abdullahi Tsanni of African News Page, Juliana Agbo of Leadership Newspaper, Josiah Buzun and Blessing Itumo of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), and Collins Nnabuife of Tribune Newspaper.