The Nigerian Stored Products Research Institutes (NSPRI) is aware like many other institutions and Nigerians, the recent video involving storage of beans in bags by two men using a synthetic chemical-SNIPER®.

Once again, we are reminded that awakening, or enlightenment is not the property of Islam, any more than truth is the property of Christianity. Neither the Prophet nor the Christ belongs exclusively to the communities that were founded in their names. They belong to all people of goodwill, all who are attentive to the secret which lives in the depths of their breath and their consciousness. This quote by Jean-Yves Leloup helps us to appreciate the magnitude of the moral burden weighing on those who unconscionably place the lives of millions of country men to risk just for mere material gains.

Indeed, the problem of high susceptibility of beans to insect infestation resulting to huge losses, lower food security and food safety which in order to mitigate these losses, majority of farmers and grain merchants employ various insect control measures including the use of chemicals not minding the consequences of their actions. This indiscriminate use of synthetic chemicals and some already banned class of chemicals like gammalin for the storage of beans, had led to sicknesses, diseases and even death of consumers.

Harvested and threshed beans can be stored for short and long term periods without chemicals using the following procedures:

Hermetic Storage: This technology work on the principle of exclusion of oxygen gas from the storage environment. Hermetic storage facilities are air-tight storage structures which can be flexible or rigid and require no synthetic chemical application. For example, using polythene lined jute bags developed by our institute, the bag should be filled to the brim with beans and properly tied or sealed to ensure air tightness.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE): Another approach is to use a diatomaceous earth formulation otherwise called inert dusts. DE branded products are safe, non-toxic products marketed in dust formulation whose effectiveness to kill insects is through its physical contact presence. To use, the DE dust is admixed with the beans of safe moisture content before and then bagged in a polypropylene woven bag and sealed. DE’s protect grains for up to 12 months is safe; can be eaten at any time; easy to handle; and can be applied by all levels of stakeholders. There are commercially available DE products in the market and NSPRIDUST® developed by our Institute is one of them.

Inert Atmosphere System: Another approach to grains storage and in particular beans without use of chemical is through the Inert Atmosphere System (IAS). The principle of this technology is to deprive the insect pest access to oxygen by replacing the air in the storage environment with nitrogen gas. Clean beans are loaded into the metal silo and purged with nitrogen gas. The system is maintained with nitrogen gas to keep the environment inactive. Beans kept in this structure up to 36 months retained their food and seed qualities. Such a technology has been developed by our Institute and are available at few locations in the country as Inert Atmosphere Metal Silo (IAMS).

For a highly and industrial storage of grains and in particular beans, our institute, NSPRI, advocates the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies which involve combination of several other reduced-risk control measures and the use of chemicals as last resort.

Harvested and threshed beans can be stored for short and long term periods with fumigants and chemicals using the following procedures:

Fumigation for Storage: Beans can be stored for short term periods (not more than 3 months) by application of aluminium phosphide tablets or pellets for warehouse and conventional silo storage. This operation although involves use of a chemical, is very safe and is usually the first line of treatment procedures for industrial storage of beans.

Chemical Application: For long term storage of beans, synthetic chemicals (organophosphates, pyrethroids) can be applied as well as for empty space storage structure fumigation. The use of appropriate chemicals for grain storage is not harmful rather it’s the improper use by untrained operators.

For the consumers, the following precautions should be observed: If you see that the grain is dusty and choky or has offensive odour or strange smell that is not peculiar to the grains, it may suggest that some kind of synthetic chemical might have been used. Grains should be par-boiled, decant and washed before final cooking.

Again, grains bought for consumption should be kept at home for about a month before consumption, thereafter follow step 2 above for the recommended cooking procedure. If poison is suspected on the grains, it should not be discarded but left for some period before cooking.

NSPRI warns that if you are in doubt about the safety of any food, please avoid it. It is better to be hungry than to be late.

–Prof Peters is executive director/CEO, Nigerian Stored Products Research Institutes (NSPRI)