AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY IN NIGERIA: THE PERCEIVED RISKS AND BENEFITS OF GMO
Case study of newest Rice
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is the outcome of recombinant DNA agricultural biotechnology that gives room for DNA to be transferred from one organism to another (transgenesis) without the genetic transfer limits of species to species barriers and with successful expression of transferred genes in the receiving organism (Gray, 2001). Four crops, maize, rice, soybean, and cotton, constitute the vast majority of GM crop production (James, 2015A), and GM crops have been grown commercially since 1995 (Bagavathiannan, Julier, Barre, Gulden, & Van Acker, 2010). The acceptance of GM crops by farmers has been rapid, with the global GM production are a growing from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications ISAAA, 2015) to 182 million hectares in 2014 (James, 2014). Just 10 countries represent almost 98% of the GM hectares worldwide. The top GM producing countries are the United States (73.1 million ha), Brazil (42.2 million ha), Argentina (24.3 million ha), Canada (11.6 million ha), and India (11.6 million ha) (James, 2014). GM soybean is the most popular GM crop and almost 50% of global soybean acres are now GM soybean (James, 2015B). For corn and cotton the global proportion of GM is 30% and 14%, respectively (James, 2015B). GM rice occupies only 5% of the global rice hectares (James, 2015B). GM crops are grown on only 3.7% of the world’s total agricultural land, by less than one percent of the world’s farmers. Almost 100% of GM crops on the market are either herbicide tolerant (HT) or insect resistant or have both of these two traits (Dill, CaJacob, & Padgette, 2008). However, this should be noted in this research that GMO was developed to curb food security especially in developing countries like Nigeria where poverty and starvation were the order of the day. The current study will practically beamed the research light on the newest rice produced through GMO.
The production of GM crops is not equal across the world and in some jurisdictions there is little or no production. Countries in the European Union (EU) are a notable example in this regard. The near complete moratorium on the production of GM crops in the EU is based on common public view and political decisions rather than GM food safety assessment (Fischer, Ekener-Petersen, Rydhmer, & Edvardsson Björnberg, 2015). This is also true for Switzerland, where, for example, since 2005 GM foods and crops have been banned because of strong negative views on the part of both Swiss farmers and citizens (Mann, 2015). Five EU countries (Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania) accounted for 116,870 hectares of maize cultivation in 2015, down 18% from the 143,016 hectares in 2014. The leading EU producer is Spain, with 107,749 hectares of maize in 2015, down 18% from the 131,538 hectares in 2014 (James, 2015A). Russia is the world largest GM-free zone (James, 2015A). Despite the claimed benefits over risks, and the wide adoption of biotech-improved crop varieties in many parts of the world, Europe and Africa still remain largely GM-free in terms of production (Paarlberg, 2008).
This may be due in part to the relative absence of reliable public scientific studies on the long-term risks of GM crops and foods and the seed monopoly that is linked to GM technology development (Paarlberg, 2008). In Asia, four countries, including Turkey, have banned GM crops. The GM concerns in Europe have also slowed down the approval of GM crops in many developing countries because of impacts on agricultural exports (Inghelbrecht, Dessein, & Huylenbroeck, 2014). Many African governments have been slow to approve, or have sometimes even banned GM crops, in order not to lose export markets and to maintain positive relations with advanced countries, especially given implications for development aid (Wafula, Waithaka, Komen, & Karembu, 2012). In addition, a few African nations have banned GM cultivation over fears of losing European markets (ISAAA, 2015).
Public concerns over GM crops and foods have also had an impact on production of GM crops in North America. The withdrawal of the GM Bt potato (NewLeaf™) varieties from the North American market due to the concerns of two of the largest buyers of processing potatoes (Frito-Lay & McDonalds) was the result of feared consumer rejection (Kynda & Moeltner, 2006). The extensive adaptation of GM crops does, however, also have some drawbacks. The occurrence of outcrossing with non-GM crops, gene flow, and the adventitious presence of GM crops on organic farms has sparked concerns among various stakeholders, including farmers who are growing GM crops (Ellstrand, 2003; Marvier & Van Acker, 2005).
The novelty of GMO has been both an asset and a challenge for those companies producing GM seeds. Supporters of GM crops have asserted that GM is merely an evolution of conventional breeding approaches (Herdt, 2006). They have insisted that humans have been genetically modifying crops for millennia and that GM technology has been an extension and facilitation of natural breeding. At the same time, however, GM crops are patentable, emphasizing that the process is truly novel and different from the natural breeding (Boucher, 1999). In addition, expert technical assessments acknowledge the unique and novel nature of GM crops (Taylor, 2007). This situation highlights the conundrum and challenge of not only introducing disruptive new technologies into society but having such technologies accepted by society (Van Acker et al., 2015). The socioeconomic nature of most risks along with the continuing farm income crisis in North America has led some to argue for the adoption of a more comprehensive approach to risk assessment of GM crops and all new agricultural technologies (Mauro et al., 2009).
The Green Revolution was driven by global hunger, and some argue that the next agricultural production revolution, which is perhaps being sparked by the introduction of GM crops, would be driven by other global needs including sustainability and the needs of individuals (Lipton & Longhurst, 2011). The green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s depended on the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation methods to initiate favorable conditions in which high yielding modern varieties could thrive. Between 1970 and 1990, fertilizer use in developing countries rose by 360% while pesticide use increased by 7 to 8% annually. The environmental impacts of the adoption of these technologies did in some cases override their benefits. These impacts included polluted land, water, and air, and the development of resistant strains of pests. Agricultural technology using GMO could be adopted to sustain or grow production levels while diminishing environmental impacts yet despite the rapid adoption of GMO many of the problems associated with the green revolution remain (Macnaghten & Carro-Ripalda, 2015).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
There have been concerns on the risks and benefits of GMO technology across the world including Nigeria. Public concern over GMO is centered in three areas: human health, environmental safety, and trade impacts (Van Acker, Cici, Michael, Ryan, & Sachs, 2015).
GMO biosafety is also forcing both agriculture and food companies to appreciate GMO safety in their marketing decisions (Blaine & Powell, 2001; Rotolo et al., 2015). The adoption of GMO in a given jurisdiction is a function of public GMO acceptance as well as the level of public trust of regulatory authorities based on the perceived risks and benefits (Vigani & Olper, 2013).
Opponents of GMO technology have questioned their necessity in terms of agricultural productivity to feed the world (Gilbert, 2013). They point to studies that have shown that current agricultural output far exceeds global calorie needs and that distribution, access, and waste are the key limitations to feeding those who are hungry and not gross production per se (Altieri, 2005).
The risks and benefits of GMO are many and diverse but there is little argument over the ambiguous consequences of this comparatively new technology, and numerous critics noted the potential risks and benefits of GMO as soon as they were launched (Mannion, 1995A, 1995B, 1995C). Hence, the current researcher is examining the perceived risks and benefits of GMO in Nigeria with focus on the agricultural technology of the newest rice.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The following are the objectives of this study:
- To examine the perceived risks of agricultural technology (GMO) in Nigeria.
- To examine the benefits of agricultural technology (GMO) in Nigeria.
- To examine the level of acceptance of GMO rice in Nigeria.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What are the perceived risks of agricultural technology (GMO) in Nigeria?
- What are the benefits of agricultural technology (GMO) in Nigeria?
- What is the level of acceptance of GMO rice in Nigeria?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The following are the significance of this study:
- The outcome of this study will educate agricultural scholars and the general public on the perceived risks and benefits of agricultural technology with respect to GMO rice in Nigeria. It will also enlighten on the level of acceptance of the GMO rice in Nigeria.
- This research will be a contribution to the body of literature in the area of the perceived risks and benefits of agricultural technology (GMO) in Nigeria, thereby constituting the empirical literature for future research in the subject area.
1.6 SCOPE/LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This research will cover the agricultural technology of GMO with special focus on the newest rice. It will also cover the perceived risks and benefits of GMO rice.
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