By Collins Nnabuife
May 16, 2017
Biotechnology is a modern science tool used by most countries to improve agricultural productivity, thereby eliminating hunger and ensuring food security for their populace.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is one of the components of biotechnology which is a science tool used to engineer the genes of plants to make them behave in the manner of which they were engineered for.
GMOs have become a topical issue in Nigeria since the country have had problem of providing enough food for the populace. Recently, famine was reported to have reached some parts of the northern Nigeria.
In the quest to ensure food security in the country, some experts have called on the Nigerian government to adopt the new technology of GMOs to increase productivity.
In Nigeria, GMOs have received some criticisms from some groups, arguing the safety of the crops which the genes have been engineered.
Meanwhile, some scientists have said that the GM seeds are like other conventional seeds and does not contain any harmful or toxic contents.
Recently, the Open Forum of Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) gathered professionals to brainstorm on how best to convey the message of science to Nigerians.
In Nigeria, farmers who will be the users of this technology if it is adopted in the country are yet to know about the technology, most of them have not heard of the technology.
The Country Coordinator of OFAB, Dr Rose Gidado during the Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety Workshop for Professional Bodies Cadre, said the Forum had carried the biotechnology campaign to farmers.
She said the workshop is expected to expand the scope of OFAB and build the capacity of the participants, so that they can understand what the biotechnology is all about.
According to her “the objective of the workshop is that we are trying to expand our scope, we are trying to build the capacity of the participants because science is multi faceted, so they need to understand better what we are doing so that they can join in the campaign for GMOs in Nigeria.
Gidado also said that other professional bodies are needed in the campaign, having in mind the huge benefits of this technology to Nigerian populace and the economy.
“We need other professional bodies to join us in this campaign because it is all about science. This technology is all about science, it is evidence based, it is important, it can contribute to the socio-economic of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the National Agricultural Seed Council, Dr Philip Ojo said before the introduction of any Genetically Modified seeds, the local capacity needs to be built.
In this light, the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), had recently trained about 20 staff of the National Agricultural Seed Council on how to identify or detect GMOs.
The Director General of NABDA, Professor Lucy Ogbadu said Nigeria cannot afford to ignore the technology, adding that another technology which may be more acceptable to Nigerians have been discovered.
She said the new technology which is called gene editing allows the scientist to work within the confines of one genetic material instead of transferring genes from one organism to another.
“We cannot afford to ignore this technology, in fact, so much advances have gone beyond where we started on genetic modification, they developed what is called gene editing and we hope that gene editing will be more acceptable to Nigeria”.
Explaining what gene editing is, Professor Ogbadu said “we are working within the confines of the genetic materials of one organism; we are not bringing in anything from outside into the organism, so we hope that this will be more acceptable to our people.
On the acceptability of the technology, Dr Gidado said “the acceptance level in Nigeria is encouraging, more people are talking for the technology, people are beginning to see why we need it”.
She further said that they are carrying the farmers along in their campaign, adding that in 2 or 3 years time, the commercialisation of BT cotton and BT cowpea will commence.
One of the environmental advantage of this technology is that less chemicals and pesticides will be used in the farm, leading to less pollution of the environment with fertilizers and chemicals.
Professor Ogbadu in her presentation a the workshop said the technology has increased environmental protection through the reduced use of pesticides and toxic chemicals.
She also said GMOs improves nutrition for people, increase quality of yields, increase farm profitability through reduced cost and new product opportunity.
Much have been said about this technology, some countries have adopted this technology and used it to advance their food production. It is important that the Nigerian government look for other means to upscale our food production.
GMOs among other biotechnology is a scientific method to improve food production in Nigeria, increase yield and practice agriculture as a business, which will in turn put money in the bags of farmers and contribute the nation’s GDP.