NIGERIA: How to differentiate seeds from grains

Aminu Adamu, a farmer, was recently diagnosed of food poisoning after he had been examined on many occasions in a hospital. “There is something you have been eating of recent which is poisonous; and if you do not stop, you may be in a greater danger,” a doctor warned Adamu.
It was the doctor’s advice that suggested to Adamu that he must have been poisoned with the consumption of the treated maize seeds given to him for planting via the Growth Enhancement Support scheme.
He then recalled that he was advised at the redemption centre, where he had collected the seeds, that the seeds were treated with chemicals and they were meant for planting and not for consumption.
He also recalled that he had, on many occasions, been consuming the seeds and been planting his reserved grains from the previous years’ harvest. It also became clear to him that the treated seeds he had been consuming could be  the source of his ill health and low output in his farm produce, resulting in low income and poverty.
Adamu is, however, one out of the numerous farmers who have been consuming seeds and planting grains to the detriment of their health and general income. But scientists say that there are no physical differences between seeds and grains; then how would the farmers identify seeds and grains? Mr Ibrahim Abdullahi, the Managing Director of Maslaha Seeds Ltd, Gusau, said seeds were usually treated with chemicals and colourings to preserve them and make them “true to type”, so colour could make a difference. He explained that seeds were developed from various parent varieties of crops to produce higher quality.
“Seeds production takes time because hundreds and thousands of varieties had to be compared, monitored and selected before the best ones would be chosen and bred. “The production of seeds start with what we call the production of breeder seeds, which takes a lot of time and a lot of years before parent lines are produced and breeder seeds are produced from these parents. So, it takes time to do the selection process and do the combination and also do what we call test crossing before you produce a good variety that is adaptable to a particular situation.
“The farmers will plant the certified seeds in their farms and what they will harvest from the seeds they planted, are grains which are not to be replanted but eaten,” he explained. Abdullahi said cooking the treated seeds for food amounts to poisoning because seeds were to be planted while grains should serve as food.
He further explained that the planting of grains would result in low or no yield at all, urging farmers to buy their seeds from designated shops so as not to buy grains instead of seeds. To further enlighten the farmers, the National Agricultural Seeds Council said it was doing everything within its reach to sensitise farmers to the advantages of planting seeds.

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