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Uphold Objectivity, Accuracy In Science Reporting, NBRDA DG Urges Journalists

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The director-general, National Biotechnology Research and Development Agency, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha.
The director-general, National Biotechnology Research and Development Agency, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha.

The director-general of the National Biotechnology Research and Development Agency (NBRDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha has called on journalists to prioritise objectivity and factual accuracy in their coverage of scientific issues.

Mustapha made this appeal during a one-day training for journalists on science communication, organised by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, Nigeria Chapter. This initiative, under the auspices of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and NBRDA, took place in Abuja.

Mustapha emphasised the importance of integrating science into journalistic narratives, highlighting the need to elevate evidence-based knowledge above rhetoric and conjecture. “Science is not merely a subject of academic inquiry; it is a methodology—a rigorous process of observation, experimentation and peer review that forms the foundation of our understanding of the natural world,” he stated.

“In a world grappling with complex challenges—from climate change to global pandemics—scientific literacy is more crucial than ever. As media practitioners, you have the power to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the public, to translate complex concepts into accessible narratives and to foster a culture of critical thinking and inquiry,” Abdullahi continued.

He stressed that this task requires more than mere lip service to science. It demands a concerted effort to cultivate partnerships with scientists, researchers and experts across disciplines, to seek out accurate and reliable sources of information and to present scientific findings in a manner that is both compelling and comprehensible.

“I urge you to embrace your role as custodians of truth, champions of objectivity and ambassadors of science. Let your words be guided by the pursuit of knowledge, the quest for truth and the noble ideals of journalism. For in a world besieged by ignorance and falsehood, the light of truth shines brightest in the hands of those who dare to seek it,” he concluded.

In her presentation titled “The Science of Agricultural Biotechnology,” director of the agricultural biotechnology department at the agency, Dr. Rose Gidado posited that biotechnology is a catalyst for economic development by addressing national challenges, fostering innovation and promoting sustainability.

She described biotechnology as a vital tool for sustainable agriculture and food security, emphasizing the importance of understanding the science behind it for informed reporting and public discourse.

Gidado highlighted the role of agricultural biotechnology in transforming the global food system, including the development of improved seeds and better varieties of staples such as maize, rice, sorghum, millet, yam, cassava and sweet potato. These advancements are produced through methods like marker-assisted conventional breeding, vegetative propagation, hybridisation and, where appropriate, genetic modification technologies.

“The adoption of biotech innovations can counteract annual fall armyworm-induced losses exceeding $268 million. It will also save Nigeria significant foreign exchange by reducing the importation of maize by over 400,000 metric tonnes and $15.2 million annually,” Gidado noted.

She stressed the necessity of strategic investment in biotechnology research, infrastructure and human capital to unlock its full potential and drive economic prosperity. Gidado called for the swift adoption of biotechnology, stating, “Biotechnology is here to change lives and bridge gaps in food supply.”

Gidado pointed out the enormous financial burden imposed by the current methods of pest control. “It is estimated that $268 billion is spent annually on the purchase of chemical insecticides used to spray maize in Nigeria,” she said, advocating for the adoption of biotech solutions to alleviate this economic strain.

The training session highlighted the essential role that accurate and objective science reporting plays in advancing public understanding and support for biotechnological innovations. The event underscored the need for journalists to maintain high standards of accuracy and integrity in their work, particularly when covering complex and impactful scientific topics.

By fostering a deeper understanding of biotechnology and its benefits, the training aimed to equip journalists with the tools needed to report on these issues responsibly and effectively, ultimately contributing to a more informed and scientifically literate public.

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