The governor of Adamawa State, Hon. Ahmadu Fintiri, has hailed biotechnology as a huge avenue for Nigeria to take advantage of to scale up food production in the country.
Fintiri, who submitted, while declaring open the media, farmers, and extension agents retreat on modern biotechnology for the northeast region held in Yola, said Nigeria could unearth the enormous potentials tied to agriculture with the adoption and right application of agricultural Biotechnology.
Represented by his deputy, Mr. Crowther Seth, Fintiri said Nigeria is a country known worldwide for her agricultural exploits but “today the contributions of the agriculture to the nation’s GDP has greatly reduced in recent years due to productivity challenges”.
He said: “The coming of agricultural biotechnology, therefore, offers us an opportunity to improve our crops and scale-up productivity which is currently at its lowest ebb. Nigerian farmers are harvesting one of the least average per hectare in the world. Our farmers cannot continue to labour in vain when technologies which can change things exist.”
The governor called for the strengthening of the agricultural extension system in Nigeria, saying it remained one of the most reliable platforms to transform and translate research findings into concrete products that can enhance productivity and ensure farmers harvest more from their farms.
“For us in the Northeast, agriculture must return to its pride of place, creating jobs and making nutritious food available for the people. But this will remain a dream until the growing agricultural research and development sector in the country is backed by a strong extension service.
“While research and development create new knowledge and produce new varieties with high potentials for us, extension services must bring that knowledge to the farmers who must embrace and cultivate the varieties.
“I, therefore, call for the strengthening of the research-extension-farmers-input-linkages-system because it is central to productivity enhancement and general improvement of rural livelihood,” he said.
In his welcome address, the director-general, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, said agricultural biotechnology has become an acceptable option for Nigeria to improve her agricultural practice and productivity.
He pointed out that the training of farmers, extension agents and media practitioners in the region north is important because the region is one of the leading producers of agricultural products in the country.
In his presentation, the director-general, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, hinted that the government of Nigeria is tightening all ends to guard against the malicious use of biotechnology in the country.
He said, as the agency responsible for regulating all biotechnology activities and products in Nigeria, it is developing comprehensive guidelines that would make the labelling of all genetically modified products mandatory among other requirements. If flouted, offenders could bag as much as five years in jail.
“As a regulatory agency, we ensure that the genetically modified version of any crop is safe to the consumer and the environment and must be similar in terms of taste, look, growth pattern, and other attributes as the conventional variety.
“The NBMA Act 2015 mandates us to take regulation of GMOs a step further. In that guise, anyone who releases a genetically modified product in Nigeria without approval from the NBMA risk five years’ imprisonment,” Ebegba said.
He said Nigeria has also commenced the process of developing a biosecurity policy aimed at nipping untoward use of biotechnology or similar technology to wreak havoc in the country, adding that Nigeria currently chairs the African and West African forum of Biosafety Regulators.
The Nigeria country coordinator, Open Forum of Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB), Dr. Rose Gidado, while outlining the objectives of the retreat said it would provide accurate and up-to-date information about advances in biotechnology in Nigeria to ensure that journalists are fully acquainted with facts and effectively disseminate same to the public.
“Biotechnology applications would contribute to national growth and development. Therefore, sustained awareness through specialised workshops as this would help popularize the technology concept and secure sufficient buy-in from the media managers and by implication the public,” she added.