Biotechnology crucial towards achieving food security ― Agric Minister 

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono has called for the adoption of modern biotechnology in achieving food security amid COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister said the adoption of technologies in plant and animal breeding has become imperative following the enormous advantages attached to it.

Speaking during a Webinar Session on Technological interventions in mitigating impacts of COVID-19 organised by the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Alhaji Nanono said with biotechnology, the shelf life of agricultural produce could be extended.

“Technology is critical in today’s world, and its relevance in agriculture is all the more crucial in preventing farmers’ crop losses to disease; enhancing market access; and the achievement of appropriate pricing for farm inputs, services and produce.

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“This is particularly important for smallholder farmers at this time as the vagaries brought on by the unavoidable movement restrictions imposed by government at the onset of the pandemic have served to disrupt agricultural supply chains across the world.

“However, biotechnology, in particular, looks set to play an even more intense role in the food security situation in Nigeria.

“It is important to state as a preliminary point, that for thousands of years, farmers have been using breeding techniques to modify the genetic state of crops and animals in order to improve quality and yield.

“Modern biotechnology is, therefore, a crucial tool in the drive to produce plants and animals that possess traits capable of enhancing humanity’s capacity to secure its food systems.

“Similarly, with the aid of biotechnology, we can extend the shelf life of agricultural produce. Indeed, without the galvanizing power of biotechnology, processing and value addition, which are critical for agro-industrialization would be retarded”, he said.

He further said with the COVID-19 pandemic, biotechnology has proven to be an integral part of the medical response.

The Minister, however, said the Ministry will continue to support and engender investments in science and technology.

In his part, the Acting Director General of NABDA, Professor Alex Akpa said scientists must strive to find solutions facing mankind through the deployment of technologies despite the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

He said biotechnology has been proven to be a powerful tool which can help to address a lot of issues including disease outbreak, hunger and pest infestation.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has placed on us a lot of restrictions and as scientists, we must strive to find a solution to the challenges facing mankind through the deployment of science and technology.

“The webinar, therefore, is our attempt to fashion out strategies on how we can take advantage of modern biotechnology to address this monster- COVID 19 pandemic.

“Biotechnology is a very powerful tool that has the potentials of helping us address a lot of situations including disease outbreaks, hunger, malnutrition, insects/pest’s infestation and drought”, he said.

Professor Akpa said with technology in agriculture, Nigeria can leapfrog its production, have better quality products and high yields, reduce drudgery, improve resistance to pest and diseases.

“We have have been able to unfold a programme capable of producing about 5 million yam seedlings using the aeroponics technology for farmers across Nigeria in this Covid-19 lockdown era. Last year, 1 Million seedlings were produced which, was distributed to farmers for cultivation”, he added.

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