Director General of Nigeria’s biotechnology agency, the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Professor Abdullahi Mustapha, has urged the country’s government to increase funding and other supports to biotechnology research to enhance food security and other innovations in the country.
Speaking at the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) EXPO 2021 holding in Nigeria’s Capital, Abuja, Prof Mustapha said, “Nigeria must invest in biotechnology research in the area of drug manufacturing, agriculture, cleaner environment, industrial processing technology.”
He said the government must continue to encourage the participation of youth and women in modern agriculture, adding that no country can develop without indigenous Technology.
He noted that countries that have given priority attention to the development of modern biotechnology enjoy huge investment inflow and market acceptability of their products.
So far in Nigeria, only two Genetically Modified crops, the Bt Cowpea and Bt Cotton have been approved for commercial use in the country.
Speaking on these, the NABDA DG said the adoption of the cultivation of Bt cotton which ensures higher yields, would contribute immensely in the resuscitation of the ailing and moribund textile mills in the country, as the rate of returns for Bt cotton is around 105%. .
While acknowledging the misgivings and concerns which people have about genetically modified products, Mustapha pointed out that the Federal Government of Nigeria did set up the National Bio-safety Management Agency (NBMA) to provide a regulatory framework to adequately safeguard human health and the environment from potential adverse effects of modern biotechnology and Genetic Modification of Organisms, while harnessing the potentials of modern biotechnology and its derivatives, for the benefit of Nigerians.
He explained that before the release of any genetically modified products, the Varietal Release Committee would have subjected them to rigorous and thorough examination before approval for their release is given.
Mustapha further urged the government to stimulate private sector investment in research as well as protect indigenous technology from theft.
Country Coordinator of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Nigeria Chapter, Dr. Rose Gidado, used the opportunity to debunk certain myths that have fueled controversies about the genetically modified products.
According to Gidado the horde of fake information about GMOs are peddled by some environmentalists who are sponsored by anti-GMO organisations for their selfish reasons.
She said Nigeria can only attain food security to cope with the growing population through the deployment of agricultural biotechnology.