By Mohammed Kandi
Acting Director General, National Biotechnology Development Agency, (NABDA) Prof. Lucy Jumeyi Ogbadu, at the weekend disclosed that the Federal Government has always been supportive of agricultural biotechnology saying it pledged a huge 2.5 billion annual support for the development of same in the country.
Ogbadu, who stated this during the launching of ISAAA Global Report in Abuja, however, said that government’s lack of enthusiasm to redeem its pledge was upsetting development of biotechnology in Nigeria.
The DG also urged members of the National Assembly to speed-up the process of appropriation of the bio-safety bill, for its swift passage into law.
She also called on African agricultural scientists to begin to communicate to the public, especially farmers, the significance of accepting agricultural biotechnology (Bt), as well as its overall benefit for the continent.
“The essence of promoting this technology is to bring about positive results African agriculture. We must be determined to support and promote what we know is best for Africa.” Ogbadu said.
According to her, available reports show “there is an unprecedented increase in the number of countries that are embracing the technology around the world”, adding “As scientists, let’s begin to own and carry out these kinds of research in our own African laboratories.”
Also speaking at the event, Dr Margaret Karembu, ISAAA Head of Africenter delegation, said in her presentation that the application of biotechnology in agriculture and adoption genetically modify organisms (GMOs) was best for African farmers, as well as the global community.
Karembu also expressed concern over the UN’s projected nine billion world population by year 2050; urging African farmers to adopt biotechnology in agriculture so as to contribute significantly in securing food security and self-sufficiency in food production.
In his remarks, Hamma Kwajaffa, Chairman, National Cotton Association of Nigeria, Kaduna State, called on the Federal Government to approve the cultivation of Bt cotton, which is not an edible commodity.
Kwajaffa, who sited Burkina-Faso’s revolution in cotton as worthy of emulation, noted that “Cotton farmers in these countries are rich and this effort is equally important for Nigeria in order to restore our textile industry.”
Agricultural biotechnology encompasses a range of modern plant breeding techniques. For centuries, farmers have tried to improve their crops by means of crossing, relying on the random rearrangement of existing genes between two closely related parent plants. Modern agricultural biotechnology improves crops in more targeted ways. The best known technique is genetic modification, but the term agricultural biotechnology (or green biotechnology) also covers such techniques as Marker Assisted Breeding, which increases the effectiveness of conventional breeding. Whatever the particular technology used, the crops may be destined for use for food, biomaterials or energy production.
Genetic modification means that existing genes are modified or new genes included to give plant varieties desirable characteristics, such as resistance to certain pests or herbicides, or for vitamin fortification. Because only a few genes with known traits are transferred, GM methods are more targeted and faster than traditional breeding. They are used alongside conventional plant breeding. Source: The European Plant Science Organisation.