NABDA advocates Genetically Modified Foods To Enhance National Food Security
Experts and officials from the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and the partnering host Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu as well as the National Biosafety Management Agency and Program for Biosafety, USA, have underscored the need for the adaptation of Genetic Modified Organisms (GMOs) technology to boost food production and sufficiency.
They posited that conventional food production can not adequately cater for the growing population of Nigeria now hovering above the 200 million naira mark.
According expert report, Nigeria and other parts of Africa face imminent hunger and in a special way over 3 million Somalians face imminent famine and food insufficiency.
These hints were dropped by experts and discussants during a 1-day South East Biotech- Biosafety Sensitization Workshop themed “The Role of Biosafety Regulation and modern Biotechnology Towards Realizing Economic Diversification In Nigeria, held today in Enugu.
The experts were all unanimous in the claim that GM foods are safe and no more unsafe than conventional foods though none is presently are commercially available some on trial stages.
Speaking earlier in an address of welcome, the Vice-Chancellor of Godfrey Okoye University, Rev Fr Prof Dr Christian Anieke, who was represented by the institution’s DVC, Rev Sr Prof Sylvia Nwachukwu, welcomed all participants and said that Godfrey Okoye University in involved in the sciences as well as other fields of knowledge that enhances human life including GMO research and.
This has made it possible for the university to operate and run a GMO centre and laboratory that serves as a hub for other universities to tap, and over 200 secondary school students have been trained at the centre on genetics.
In his opening remarks, Prof Abdulahi Mustapha, the Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency, enthused that, “I am delighted to be with you all- our esteemed stakeholders and distinguished invited guests this morning, at this sensitization Workshop for Southeast as part of on-going efforts to increase outreach and sensitization on Modern Biotechnology practice and Biosafety regulation in agriculture in the country.
“Nigeria is currently at a crossroad in view of looming food crisis and this requires that all hands must be on deck to fashion out strategies on how to improve and boost agricultural productivity to guarantee food and nutritional security.
In the last 30 years, we were comfortable with agricultural productivity because then we had fewer people to feed and the soil was very productive, so even with aged farming population, we did not envisage food crisis but today, we cannot afford such luxury as most of our population goes to bed hungry on daily basis.
“The farming population has also not improved rather the youth have completely hands-off farming leaving it in the hands of our fathers who are already in their late 50s and 60s.
“The sensitization workshop is to among other things open our eyes to the fact that we cannot continue to rely on the aged population to feed the nation of over 200 million people. We can also not rely on the same piece of land to be as productive as it was 20 years ago, the time has come for us as a nation to fully embrace technologies that will change our farming experiences.
It is based on this reality that we are all gathered here today. In the last decade, scientists across the country have been working, seeking for solutions to the challenges confronting our farmers especially as it relates to yield potentials of our legumes.”
Speaking further,Prof Mustapha stated ‘The difference between agricultural yield in Nigeria and other parts of the world is not only alarming but very disturbing. Our legumes are not performing according to their potentials, hence, the introduction of technologies to ensure that our quest for food and nutritional security is guaranteed.
“The greatest setback for the agricultural productivity in this country include absence of a coherent information system that keeps farmers abreast with latest development in the field of agriculture, today most of our farmers cannot differentiate between grains and seeds.
“The absence of good agronomic practices is another issue that is affecting agricultural productivity in this country, farmers ag seeds from previous harvest but do not know that the seeds need to be treated to become good quality seeds to enhance better performance. A good quality seed is a seed that is healthy and proficient enough to resist drought, herbicides, diseases, and can produce a healthy plant with more nutritious grains, and more in number is called but this is far from what farmers experience with their saved seeds. Farming is about having strong harvestable yield that will get you economically empowered.”
“However,” he said ” the National Biotechnology Development Agency, where I head is a Federal Government Agency charged with the responsibilities of promoting biotechnology activities that positively respond to national aspirations on food security, job/wealth creation, affordable healthcare delivery, and sustainable environment.
“It is also the duty of the agency to make Biotechnology an engine of growth for socio-economic development of Nigeria by promoting, coordinating, and deploying cutting-edge biotechnology research & development, processes, and products for the socio-economic well-being of the nation.
We have been to other parts of the country to seek for collaboration with various stakeholders especially farmers, extension agents and media on the need for us as a country to embrace these new technologies to ensure the availability of quality food, improve farmers livelihood because of bumper harvest they will be experiencing and more importantly attract the younger generation into farming.”
The Biotech boss averred that “This interaction will continue until our farmers get it right and Nigeria is self-sufficient in the production of its staples.”
“On this note, I would like to express my gratitude to you all for making out time to be part of this workshop, thanks for being here, without your presence, this meeting couldn’t be possible”, even as he wished the participants
Other speakers who spoke in affirmation that GM foods are needed to stave off imminent hunger in Nigeria and on the African continent, and therefore called for sensitization of people about the immense benefits of GM technology and food.
Some of the participants included Dr Rufus Ebegba, the DG of National Biosafety Management Agency, Dr Ihuoma Okwuonu, National Root Crops Research Research Institute, Umudike, Prof Chigozie Egesi, Director, Next Generation Cassava Breeding Project, IITA Ibadan, Dr C.O Onyia, Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, Dr Mathew Core, Country Coordinator, Programme for Biosafety, System, PBS, Nigeria, Dr Chairman, Evergreen Consumer Advocacy and Safety Initiative,ECASI, Dr Rose Gidado, Deputy Director, Agri Biotech Department, NABDA, Prof George Ude, Director, DNALC-NIG,GO University Enugu among others.