The director-general, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha has underscored biotechnology as an innovative tool for national economic growth.
Speaking during the just concluded NABDA Day at the 2022 technology expo organised by the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in Abuja, he enlightened participants on the concept of biotechnology and its importance.
He defined modern biotechnology as a term “adopted by international convention to refer to biotechnological techniques for the manipulation of genetic material and the fusion of cells beyond normal breeding barriers”.
Citing insulin and chymosin as products of biotechnology that have saved millions of lives all over the world for hundreds of years, the NABDA boss enumerated that the safety of biotechnology products are also insights to plant products derived through the same biotechnology practice such as Nigeria’s genetically modified cowpea and the transgenic cotton which are completely safe.
In the last 3 to 4 decades, biotechnology worldwide has shifted from being seen as a strategic emerging industry to one of the mainstays of most advanced nations’ strategic industries, making biotechnology one of the key pillars of development of any nation.
Also, he emphasised that biotechnology could impact national economic growth through agriculture (crop improvement, animal production, fish and sea-food production), environment (green energy, blue economy, clean environment, etc.), medical (drugs discovery, vaccine and others) and industry (enzymes and others).
Estimating the potential contribution of biotechnology companies worldwide, Prof Mustapha said that by 2040, biotechnology companies would potentially contribute 20 per cent of the world economy while citing reports of the national intelligence council.
Speaking on biotechnology breakthroughs in Nigeria, the DG revealed that NABDA, together with national and international partners is already driving Nigeria’s economic growth with the commercialisation of two genetically modified crops and many more transgenic crops in the pipeline of commercialisation including TELA maize, HT soybean, NUE rice, among several others. Justifying why Nigeria’s government should hasten the commercialization of the transgenic TELA Maize, the DG said that it has proven to have 17 per cent yield increase and reduction in spraying, among other benefits. “That’s a lot for the farmers’ economic empowerment,” Mustapha said.
Also, he noted that Nigeria will be saving N270, 9 000,000,000.00 from the cost of buying insecticides in addition to addressing food security and impacting positively on climate change in Nigeria.
While concluding his presentation, Mustapha reiterated that Nigeria’s transgenic cowpea, which is the world’s first genetically modified PBR cowpea, is already revolutionising the nation’s food production and that the Economic Sustainability Plan and Nigeria’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework (2021-2023) both emphasise the need to diversify Nigeria’s economy and ensure growth in non-oil exports.