By Collins Nnabuife
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu has said that agricultural biotechnology and Genetically Modified Organism has the potential to play a very critical role in ensuring that the country produces enough food to feed its citizens.
The Minister while noting that agricultural biotechnology would assist Nigeria in stopping the importation of basic food, he said the newly developed and approved Bt Cotton varieties have the capability of reviving the Moribund Nigerian textile industry.
Dr Onu disclosed this at the opening ceremony of the ICGB-NABDA-SCBD-NBMA Workshop on Basic Laboratory Training on Living Modified Organisms (LMO) Detection and Identification.
According to him, “Genetically Modified Organism has a very important role to play in the search of our great nation to be in a position to ensure that we can feed all our citizens and start the process of producing many of the things that we now import from outside.”
Speaking on the areas of interventions in agriculture using technology, Dr Onu said “there are so many areas that require interventions, you have to start with the seeds, we want to make sure that the seeds used in the country are high yielding and they are disease resistant.
“NABDA is helping us in so many areas, if we talk about our cash crops, you can see what happened to our textile industry because our cotton farmers had to leave as a result of the ball worm that attack their farms, but the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), have been able to come up with the BT Cotton that is resistant to those worms.
“Now, when we grow enough cotton, we will be in a position to revive the textile industry.
“We also need raw materials for our industries and many of these raw materials come from the farm.”
Commending NABDA, the Minister said, “I want to assure you that the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology will continue to support you to make sure that you carry out this very vital mandate given to you by the nation to help our country not only in the area of agriculture, but also protecting our environment in ensuring that the desire of our nation to industrialize very rapidly is achieved, and I believe that through genetic engineering and biotechnology, all these areas and even more can be achieved.”
In his remarks, the Acting Director-General of NABDA, Professor Alex Akpa said the interventions of the Agency led to the commercialization of the Bt Cotton and the approval for release of the Bt Cowpea.
“NABDA is mandated to promote biotechnology research, development and adoption in Nigeria. Hence, NABDA supports initiatives that enhance the credibility and public trust in biotechnology research and deployment. Our interventions are very strategic and have led to resounding successes in Bt Cotton commercialization, approval for release of Bt Cowpea and even more recently, massive production of yam seedling for the Nigerian yam value chain.
“The training workshop is in collaboration with the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Trieste, Italy and the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA).
“Other major partners include the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), Ontario, Canada and the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA),” Professor Akpa added.