Food Security: Stakeholders, scientists harp on application of biotechnology

Stakeholders in the agricultural sector and scientists have said that for Nigeria to achieve food security, application of modern technologies such as biotechnology has become necessary.

Speaking during a webinar session tagged ‘Media Summit on Status of Agricultural Biotechnology Research in Nigeria’, Country Coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Dr Rose Gidado, said the application of efforts that will encourage stakeholders to participate in the science-based decision.

She said this move is crucial and necessary for the acceptance and adoption of innovative technology.

Dr Gidado further noted that the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of Zero hunger by 2030 is fundamental for national development and wellbeing of Nigeria, adding that the facilitation of adequate understanding of the several ways Nigeria can achieve the goal is very fundamental.

She explained that with the current population of over 200 million people and projected population of 400 million people by 2050, an outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria is faced with the risk of the decreased farming population due to age; decreased arable land; poverty, malnutrition and hunger.

She noted that agricultural biotechnology holds the solution to Nigeria’s food security. She also said the conventional method of agriculture can no longer meet up with the country’s demand.

“With the current state of agriculture in Nigeria, it has become paramount to also adopt this technology to improve our productivity and revive our industries.

“The time is now, let us sensitize people on the potentials of this innovation to aid decision making and adoption in Nigeria.”

Also, the Acting Director-General of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Professor Alex Akpa harped on the importance of biotechnology application for the benefits of man especially in the areas health, agriculture and environment.

“Biotechnology has other applications, in agriculture, it is massive and that is where most post-COVID-19 is coming, you find out that here in NABDA, using Biotechnology we have started impacting massively in the area of agriculture.

“For instance, in our yam multiplication program, last year, we were able to produce 1 million yam seedlings and this year, we are targeting 5 million yam seedlings, all these things are feasible because of Biotechnology”, he noted.

Furthermore, the NABDA DG said the Agency had been involved in using biotechnology to advance health activities, especially in the era of COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a massive problem in the world and here in Nigeria. We all know that at this time, Biotechnology is a tool that is extremely important and useful not only to Nigeria but to the whole world.

The National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Arc Kabir Ibrahim, said it’s imperative to explore the option of the use of innovation to upscale food production in order to bring about food sufficiency to avert hunger due to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He, however, emphasised on the need to sensitise smallholder farmers to embrace technological advancement in order to avert hunger caused by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Already a lot of work has been going on to commercialise cowpea, maize, cassava, rice, sorghum as well as cotton and the farmers are seeing good results so it is, therefore, easy to get them to embrace biotechnology”, he said.

TELA Maize, Project Manager, Dr Sylvester Oikeh, noted that biotechnology remains a strong investment for farmers. He said, globally, for each dollar invested in biotech crop seeds, farmers gained an average $3.49.

“We need goodwill and support from the federal government and relevant agencies to expedite the approval process to proceed after ongoing Confined Field Trials to Advanced Yield and on-farm Trials,” he added.

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