By Gabriel Agbeja
Abuja – The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, on Monday in Abuja, said the Federal Government is determined to deepen efforts in deploying scientific research findings to improve agricultural production.
Onu made this known at ta news conference on the newly released MRC7377 BGH MAYCO 567 BGH and MRC 7361 transgenic cotton hybrid varieties in Nigeria.
According to him, boosting products from agricultural sector will create jobs and grow the national economy.
He said that the newly released varieties of transgenic hybrid cotton were much awaited products of technology adaptation and deployment to meet the challenges of raw materials in textile industry.
He added that “I am happy to address you all at this world press conference on the recent named, registered and released into two, the Nigerian seed market of two transgenic cotton hybrid varieties by the National Varietal Release Committee.
“This was done on July 26, at the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Moor Plantation, Ibadan, under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.
“The varieties were developed to contain Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) agent. These confer on them the ability to resist attack by bollworm. This is a devastating pest disease that has significantly reduced cotton production.
“It unfortunately represents a nightmare for our farmers.”
Onu said that advancement in science and technology helped to shape the development of societies, as well as influence immense contributions of agricultural biotechnologies.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said that farmers’ perception in the field was positive in terms of seed cotton yield and tolerance to insect pests, especially bollworm complex.
Ogbe said that the great feat would increase the production of cotton in the country.
He added that “it will help to rebuild the textile industry, which used to be the second largest employer of labour in the country in the 1960s to 1970s. There is no doubt that this is a landmark, the first achievement in the history of modern biotechnology in Nigeria.”
Mr Bitrus Nabasu, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, said potential benefits of the new products to farmers included increased productivity or reduced cost of production.
Nabasu said “high yield of cotton seeds, compared to the yield of conventional varieties, improved production.
Prof. Alex Akpa, the acting Director-General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) said it had become increasingly necessary to dig deep into understanding nature and its complex interactions to develop technologies that provided solutions “to our problems.
“We did not change local advantages of our varieties, instead, we transformed these varieties that have unsustainably clothed us and supported our textile industry into competitive varieties.
“This is to meet the challenges of today. Just like us, India and China are global examples and leaders in Bt. Cotton deployment.
“Back home and within the continent, South Africa, Egypt, Burkina Faso and Sudan are leading.” (NAN)