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Science, media and Nigeria’s biosafety -By Greg Odogwu

When the Alliance for Science Nigeria lately called for extra sensitisation of stakeholders, together with farmers, on the function of biosafety administration in the adoption of biotechnology in meals manufacturing, a few of us who’ve an ear to the ground on the environmental impression of cutting-edge improvements, perceive what exactly they are talking about.

Human society is wired in such a way that sudden adjustments are resisted vehemently. People usually are not keen about leaving their comfort zones, therefore, any invention that tends to tug them off the cocoon of familiar accoutrements is seen as coming from the pit of hell. They are first ignored, then mocked after which resisted. However, if the changes are irresistibly helpful, they’re reluctantly accepted with a caveat—those who’ve a vested curiosity within the old order have to be shown how they may profit from the emerging resolution. If not, the new innovation shall continue to see opposition no matter how untenable.

For instance, allow us to go back in time to when petrol (gasoline) was discovered. Unbelievable, however true, the now-precious substance used to be a waste product. After kerosene was distilled from crude oil, highly combustible petrol (aka premium motor spirit) was washed away into rivers, thereby creating ecological problems for the ambient ecosystem.

Edwin Drake dug the primary crude oil nicely in Pennsylvania, USA, in 1859 and distilled the oil to supply kerosene for lighting. Although different petroleum merchandise, together with gasoline, have been also produced within the distillation process, Drake had no use for gasoline and different products, so he discarded them. It was not until 1892, with the invention of the auto, that gasoline was recognised as a useful fuel. By 1920, 9 million autos powered by gasoline have been on the highway and repair stations promoting gasoline had been opening round America. Today, gasoline is the fuel for nearly all light-duty vehicles all over the world.

The first refineries had been arrange just for kerosene, with which lamps lit the world. The World Fair in Chicago in 1893 noticed the try and mainstream electrical energy when it was lighted up totally with 240,000 bulbs by George Westinghouse (founder of Westinghouse Electric Corporation).  The American tycoon, John D. Rockefeller, was busy combating JPMorgan, who was investing closely with Thomas Edison and attempting to make electrical energy go mainstream. JP Morgan’s home was the primary prize home to be lit by electricity in the whole world. Rockefeller fought electrical energy as a outcome of he bought kerosene however later discovered another use for the flamable gasoline: it could be used to power the “horseless carriage” (which we call a automotive today).

Truth be told, if the media had been as vibrant in those days as they are right now, Rockefeller would have leveraged his financial and social capital muscle to influence the narrative in opposition to electrical energy as technological innovation, just because he sold kerosene. A section of the media would have, naturally, championed the “end electricity” marketing campaign just because folks with vested curiosity didn’t want kerosene lanterns to go out of existence.

Clearly, it’s the prime duty of the media to at all times maintain an open mind. We should guide society into making knowledgeable selections. To obtain this, we must first learn, ourselves. It is our duty to at all times remind the world that there are things we mustn’t ever throw away, just because they seem to offend our conservative sensibilities. We must give honest shares of our professional time and area to all sides of the controversy, at all times. Let our public get all the sides of the information and analysis in order that they might have been geared up with sufficient supplies to make up their minds on the usefulness, or in any other case, of the innovation under scrutiny. As is natural with the human mind, there are things we fight over however shall later realise our folly when fresh perspectives are presented to us.

Biosafety is the prevention of large-scale lack of organic integrity, focusing each on ecology and human well being. These prevention mechanisms embrace the conduction of standard evaluations of biosafety in laboratory settings, as nicely as strict tips to follow. Many laboratories handling biohazards employ an ongoing risk administration evaluation and enforcement process for biosafety. Failure to follow such protocols can result in elevated risk of publicity to biohazards or pathogens. However, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety offers primarily with the agricultural definition and that is the aspect that is necessary in this dialogue. To be specific, it’s about genetically modified organisms as they relate to meals manufacturing.

GMOs are usually made for medical, environmental or commercial reasons. GMOs are organisms that have had their characteristics changed by way of the modifications of their DNA. These should have had their genomes changed in a way that doesn’t occur naturally, and in doing so, modified its characteristics. Any organism might be genetically modified but laws prohibit the creation of genetically modified humans and the production and distribution of different GMOs is tightly regulated.

As I actually have all the time maintained, GMO is a brand new know-how we must be extraordinarily strategic in adopting as a country. Not only ought to we be environmentally aware in its consideration, however all parties involved should also be very patriotic. Hence, the job of the media is clearly reduce out: At closer statement, one may simply discover that each side of the GMO divide are dancing to the drumbeats of invisible players, who might need vested interests in the matter.

Proponents of GMOs have alleged that the hue and cry in opposition to GMO adoption are articulated and sponsored by individuals and non-governmental organisations that are not well-versed within the software of science, thereby instilling worry in the minds of residents. The anti-GMO activists, however, preserve that the progress of GMO approval and its mainstreaming within the agricultural sector is orchestrated and bankrolled by Western multinational giants who goal the massive market potential of the nation.

The media ought to then present a neutral sparring space in which the various stakeholders must engage and dissipate their energies by presenting evidence-based arguments to the folks. It can additionally be the media who could make citizens belief authorities biosafety regulators by holding them to account at every step, underpinned by international best practices. Consequently, when the media does its job, the gamers become more responsible and extra active. Then with these actions comes international visibility.

In my view, as Nigeria is presently the poverty capital of the world, it may become the GMO capital of the world by providing the research space and incentives to enhance the war on global hunger through modern biotechnology. Dubai is an example within the experiment of going out on a limb. The city did not have the enormous oil wealth loved by its neighbors, similar to Abu Dhabi. Realising its handicap and leveraging the emerging financial order, it declared its duty-free coverage, which quickly attracted global attention and hypnotised enterprise considerations, bringing large prosperity.

Therefore, this is the time to think outside the box, like Dubai did, and invite more specialists to come back to the table, sit with our lawmakers, public officers and policy specialists, to find a way to not solely enlarge the scope of our biosafety policies but design artistic ways to draw the whole world to Nigeria: Opening field trials, securing GMO themed free commerce zones, convening focus teams and engaging indigenous specialised suppose tanks to spearhead the inclusion of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in  our biosafety sector. The media might mild the fire for this revolution of ideas by finding a way to reconcile the environmentalists, the scientists and the futuristic “multiverse” speculators who’re already primed for ascension.

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