Scientists and food experts have affirmed that with the current state of emergency declared in the food and agricultural sector of Nigeria, the integration of biotechnology tools into the Nigerian agriculture space becomes a necessity, as it would revolutionise national food production.
They asserted that biotechnology provides farmers with tools that can make production cheaper and more manageable. The scientists made this known at a one-day ‘Interactive Session on Navigating Biotech Frontiers for Accurate Science Communication for Selected Lagos-based Senior Editors’, organised by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, Nigerian Chapter, an initiative of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), under the auspices of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA).
The Head, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology and Biotech Awareness (OFABBA), NABDA, Iweajunwa Sarah, said that the objectives of the workshop, among others, were to enlighten and keep the participants up-to-date with developments in agricultural biotechnology, as well as addressing the misconception about the safety of the technology and to build the capacity of participants for improved editorial decision-making on issues related to agricultural biotechnology.
The Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of NABDA, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, during the interactive session, said biotechnology is a transformative field that has the potential to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the nation and the world at large. From agriculture to healthcare, from environmental conservation to industrial innovation, biotechnology is at the forefront of driving positive change, he said, noting that agricultural biotechnology must be understood, accepted, and embraced by the general public, stressing that it is a collective responsibility to guarantee that all Nigerians have access to accurate and fair information concerning agricultural biotechnology, which would enable them make informed decisions about its applications.
The Director, Agricultural Biotechnology Department of NABDA, Dr. Rose Gidado, said the Nigerian agriculture landscape is vulnerable to climate change and its associated occurrences of higher temperatures, extended droughts, floods, and other circumstances, reducing agricultural production across the country, particularly in the Northern states. She said the use of biotechnology tools in Nigerian agriculture was now necessary due to the current state of emergency in the country’s food and agricultural sector, adding that to date, no evidence of safety or health risks had been linked to the two commercial biotech crops, Bt Cotton and PBR Cowpea, which are already available in the market.
“Biotechnology offers new tools for increasing agricultural productivity and protecting food crops from climate changes such as heat, floods, and drought”, she said. The Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Agnes Asagbra, emphasised that modern biotechnology had advanced quickly; creating new regulatory requirements that must be met in order to protect human health and the environment while also utilising the potential that biotechnology presents to the country.
According to her, in order to address the various global and national concerns or challenges in the fields of human health, agriculture, environment, and industry, modern biotechnology application inside a legal framework, can be a beneficial instrument. Asagbra also noted that Nigeria had always been looked upon to provide leadership on biosafety issues to African countries. She stated further that Nigeria’s biosafety regulatory system opens a door for the achievement of a wide range of crops with potentials for economic and national development.