Biotechnology can be used to control weed, boost crop productivity ― Don

The former Director-General of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Professor Bamidele Solomon, has said that genetic modification crops could help fight weed in the farm.

“Weed which grows side by side with crops also competes for food with the crop. Fertilizers applied on the farm does little or no impact on the crops because weeds also use the fertilizer to grow.

“Genetic Modification is a component of biotechnology where scientists modify the gene of plants to perform a particular function such as resistance to pest, weed tolerance, drought and flood tolerance.”

Professor Solomon while speaking with journalists at a Dialogue Workshop on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) foods, said farmers may not need to bend and weed their farm if they plant herbicide-tolerant crops.

“GMO has grown tremendously, and actually it is the use of the GMO particularly herbicide-tolerant where farmers don’t have to bend down removing weeds, because weeds are the major competitors of food, the plant that produces food, compete with weeds in order to consume, so by removing weeds, you leave all the nutrients for you plant and it gives a higher productivity and yield, and therefore you can take agriculture as a business,” he said.

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He further said that in as much as the technology is beneficial, there was a need for proper regulation by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).

“Having gone through this particular technology and also getting involved in the domestication in Nigeria, including laying the foundation for the regulatory or process in Nigeria that we have to do biotechnology in pari passu with proper regulations and that was what gave birth to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).

“The African Union had a policy of what is called the freedom to innovate that you should not hamper anybody from doing biotechnology or getting things that will benefit the society,” Professor Solomon said.

On the health issues of GMO, Professor Solomon who is a Professor of Chemical Engineering said biofortification of crops would introduce vitamin A, Zinc and Iron in the crop which reduces the rate of mortality during childbearing.

“The issue of biofortification to bring in maybe vitamin A which is the precursor that is a bitter carotene which is a precursor for Vitamin A is very germane.

“Nigeria has the highest mortality rate of childbearing in the whole world and so many young people between the age of 5 and 6 are dying every day in Nigeria, and there is a need for us to eliminate that.

“Iron deficiency, zinc deficiency and other micronutrients which is vitamin A, they are the causes of this high mortality rate and there is, therefore, a need for us to use GMO.

“We have carrot quite alright, but how many of us can consume carrot every day, we take garri everyday, and we are biofortifying sorghum for those in the Northern part of Nigeria.

“So, my position really is that we should go on with GMO, however with proper regulation which is what the NBMA is doing,” he added.

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