By Tobias Lengnan Dapam

Worried by the controversies surrounding gene drives, the Renevlyn Development Initiative (RDI) on Friday trained journalists on reporting gene drives.

RDI said the aim of the raining was to equip the media with relevant knowledge effectively to interrogate issues around gene drives.

The training which held virtual saw journalists from various parts of the country.

Speaking while giving his opening remark,, Philip Jakpor, the Executive Director of RDI, said the training was organized to address the under-reportage of gene drives in the African continent.

“n conceiving this training, we realize that the media is key not only in keeping the public informed but also in exposing and interrogating initiatives and innovations that are extraneous to our people and culture as part of its watchdog role.
“We are not averse to technology or innovation as long as they are rooted in facts, the promotion of our culture, are indigenous and protect our people from manipulation in all forms. But we are aware of a new form of colonialism that targets altering our food, our food systems and nature as a whole.

“Gene drives are being experimented already in Uganda, Ghana, and in Burkina Faso where in 2019 sterilized mosquitoes were released. Nigeria, with its huge population of more than 230 million people is a potential testing ground for gene drives. What are the risks? What are the ethical considerations? What are the discussions that should be going on?”

On how gene drives is dominating international politics, Barbara Pliz, Campaign Manager, Save Our Seeds, listed UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (in addition to some national governments) as major players.

She said synthetic biology is an agenda item for the upcoming meeting in May during the CBD.”

The expert urged journalists to interrogate “political spaces that are difficult to access and amplify the voices of civil society and affected communities.”

Speaking further, she Harper on the need for journalists to
disseminate the right information to balance the spread of pure technology marketing and uncover what is behind the limited narrative of a ‘techno-fix’.

On his part, Michael Simire, Editor-in-Chief at EnviroNews, charged journalists to avoid the use of scientific terminologies but use simple and everyday language while reporting gene drive, to ensure the messaging is not lost.

“Journalists should be grounded on Science by reading widely and participate in training and fellowship programmes to develop the knowledge and skill to simplify terms for their readers”.

Other facilitators at the training includes; Diego Bárcena Menéndez, Ecological farmer and former molecular scientist; and Barbara Ntambirweki, Researcher, ETC Group.

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