THE global hectare of biotech crops has in creased more than 100-folds from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 181.5 million hectares in 2014 making biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent times.
This was revealed by the director-general of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Lucy Ogbadu, at the International Service for the Acquisition of Agric-biotech Applications (ISAAA) global biotech update report for 2014 in Abuja.
She noted that a new and rigorous 2014 comprehensive global meta-analysis of 147 published biotech crop studies over the last 20 years, confirmed the significant and multiple benefits that biotech crops have generated over the past 20 years. Prof. Ogbadu disclosed that the meta-analysis concluded that “on average GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22percenr, and increased farmer profits by 68 percent “Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.”
While presenting the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2014, the NABDA boss noted that millions of risk-averse farmers, both large and small, world-wide, have concluded that the returns from planting biotech crops are high, hence repeat planting is virtually 100%; good returns on their INVESTMENT is the critical test applied by demanding farmers when judging the performance of any technology.
“This impressive adoption rate speaks for itself, in terms of its sustainability, resilience and the significant benefits it delivers to both small and large farmers as well as consumers.”
Highlighting opportunities for developing biotechnology research in Africa, Ogbadu said they included persistent low yield of cereals around 1 mt/ha; existence of biotic and abiotic stresses; pests, diseases, weeds, environmental degradation, soil nutrient depletion, low fertilizer inputs, inadequate food processing amenities, poor roads to markets, and general lack of information to make science-based decisions that underlie farming methodologies and systems.
Others, according to her, are collaboration between various sub-regional institutions that address capacity building in biotechnology and biosafety and positive pronouncement on biotechnology development.
The NABDA boss listed four important trends for biotechnology development in Nigeria to include the expansion and improvement of current biotech crops, saying major opportunity for maize exists in Asia (60 M ha), rice and more for small and poor countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam & Indonesia – all Asian countries and Africa.
Ogbadu further highlighted the existence of more food products with direct consumer benefits; progress with drought tolerance and success of public-private partnerships with synergy in sharing resources and expertise.
She listed key lessons to be learnt for the swift passage of the bio-safety bill into law, harping on the need for strong political will by the government and an efficient cost-effective regulatory process as well as sustained communication with society.
Speaking earlier in his keynote, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Abdu Bulama, lamented that Nigeria had been unable to key into the opportunities provided by modern biotechnology or harness the benefits of the application because of the absence of a regulatory framework, the biosafety law, in the nation.
Speaking on the necessity of a regulatory framework, the minister said Nigeria needed biotechnology in its quest to feed and provide livelihoods for our teaming population, pointing out that the enactment of a biosafety law would provide the key to unlock the second gene revolution in Nigeria.
Speaking on the status of agricultural biotechnology and biosafety in Nigeria, the minister noted that the country already had a formidable team of biotech champions and highlighted the need for synergy among relevant stakeholders.
He said the lack of a biosafety law, inadequate Intellectual Property Right (IPR) structure, awareness by key stakeholders on potential benefits/public acceptance, inadequate funds to promote research activities and activities of the anti-GM group militated against the commercialization of the GM crops/products.
The minister said no GM crop had been commercialized in Nigeria, adding sporadic reports of GM food suspects existed though.
According to him, three GM crops including cassava developed for Vit A iron and Zinc enrichment (Biocassava plus) and mosaic disease, brown streak disease resistance are currently undergoing CFT and they include BioCassava Plus, Maruca Resistant Bt cowpea (beans) and Africa Biofortified Sorghum. He said commercialization of GM crops could not commence until the Biosafety Law was enacted.
Meanwhile, Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder and former member of the group Greenpeace and now chairman and spokesperson of the Allow Golden Rice Campaign, has said that Golden Rice is the hope of the children.
Speaking at a seminar in Laguna, Philippines recently, he said allowing Golden rice to be available in the market will give children a better future.
Dr. Moore maintained that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as Golden Rice pose no harm, and added that humans are also products of gene modification through their parents’ genes, while commercially available products are combinations of the best genes and traits of each species that evolved through time.
Golden Rice, he said, is the same rice that people eat, aside from the fact that it is infused with beta carotene or Vitamin A, which is an essential vitamin needed in the human body.
Author: Jimoh Babatunde