Leadership (Abuja)

20 February 2009

Nigeria: The Poor Have a Right to Healthy Food - Ruma

Abuja — The 32nd Session of the Governing Council kicked off yesterday in Rome, with Nigeria's Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Sayyadi Abba Ruma, delivering the opening address.

While welcoming delegates to the session, he said Nigeria's commitment to the alleviation of poverty, especially at the rural level has been demonstrated by her 200% increment in replenishment pledges, a dedication of some 244 billion Naira as intervention fund in agriculture and a 12 per cent allocation of the nation's 2009 budget to agriculture.

He said all these are being done to stimulate and enable the rural poor to grow wealth.

He, however, cautioned that the race to address rural poverty especially in this time and clime of global food and financial crises, the interest of the people in developing nations should be taken into consideration.

He was referring particularly to the issues of genetically modified crops, which he said are genetically engineered through the incorporation of genomes from extraneous living organisms and also Nuclear Foods where natural selection is accelerated through radiation induced mutation of the genes.

He said the enthusism shown by corporate bodies promoting the acceptance of these products ignores the fact that there is still so much uncertainty surrounding the safety of the modified crops. Ruma therefore advised the Rome-based trio of the Food and Agriculture Organization, F AO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD and the World Food Programme, WFP, to look closely at these issues, make statements and advise countries further on the risks and/or benefits of these modified crops.

In his words, "In most developing countries, where food commodities are very seldom packaged, much less labelled, how could a consumer make an informed choice whether or not to purchase GM or Nuclear foods? We must feed, but we feed to live a healthy life", he concluded.

Meanwhile, Ruma who on Tuesday, February 17, inaugurated the new headquarters building of IF AD, had also used the same medium to thank the outgoing President of IF AD, Mr. Lennart Bage, whose eight-year tenure he described is progressive and replete with remarkable achievements.

He said the international community is eagerly awaiting the outcome of elections that would usher in Bage's successor.

It would be recalled that Nigeria's Kanayo Nwanze, current Vice President of IFAD is in the race. Pakistan was one of the latest to announce withdrawal of candidature in favour of Nwanze. Elections hold, Friday, February 18,2009.

Meanwhile, Nigeria's Dr. Kanayo Nwanye has been elected vice president of IFAD.

He won a keenly contested election characterized by intense lobbying and some other campaign against the Nigerian candidate. Nwanze was accused by a certain group of mismanaging funds during his tenure as Director General of the West Africa Rice Development Association.

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