Biotechnology, Leap Forward For Africa’s Nutrition Security, DG, NABDA

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Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha
Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha

Tthe director-general of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha has emphasised that the application of modern biotechnology is propelling Africa towards nutrition security.

In his keynote address titled “Biotechnology and Biosafety Approach Towards Solving Problem of Food and Nutrition Insecurity in Nigeria,” Mustapha highlighted the revolutionary impact of modern biotechnology, also known as genetic engineering, which has been discovered over 50 years ago. He emphasised that this technology enables the alteration of living organisms by combining genetic material in ways that wouldn’t naturally occur. The purpose is to develop or improve specific characteristics of an organism for the betterment of society economically and otherwise.

Citing Nigeria as an example, he pointed out the country’s groundbreaking achievement with transgenic cowpea, the world’s first genetically modified Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) cowpea, which is transforming food production in Nigeria. The transgenic crops have shown no ill-health effects on humans and animals, and they have penetrated deep into the Nigerian market, benefiting local farmers through a reduction in insecticide usage.

Mustapha also mentioned other transgenic crops in the pipeline for commercialisation, such as TELA maize and HT soybean.

The NABDA boss affirmed that the agency is committed to deploying safe biotechnology tools to revolutionise food production not only in Nigeria but also across the entire African continent. He emphasised the agency’s dedication to continuously training farmers and other stakeholders on adopting this cutting-edge technology.

“While I applaud our partners and other key players contributing to the success of the adoption and deployment of biotechnology in Nigeria, I implore all participants at this workshop to embrace this technology and sensitize others at the grassroots so that together, we will grow wealth and fight hunger and poverty in the nation,” he added.

The director of the agricultural biotechnology department at NABDA, Dr. Rose Gidado echoed the importance of safe biotechnology applications, particularly in agriculture. She emphasised that this technology is integral to achieving the objectives of improving productivity, quality of food crops, and farmers’ income. She stressed the need to sensitise the southwest zone on the benefits and safety of biotech to counter health-related claims made by anti-GM groups in the region.

The one-day sensitisation workshop, organised by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, Nigeria chapter, under the auspices of NABDA, in collaboration with the Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS), the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Federal University Ado Ekiti and the Ekiti State government, aimed to increase stakeholders’ awareness of the benefits of Bt. cowpea, maize and cotton. The workshop also aimed to promote the planting of Bt cowpea and cotton across Nigeria, provide effective agricultural extension support to accelerate farmers’ adoption of these crops, and enhance market and consumer acceptance.

The workshop signifies a major step towards harnessing the potential of biotechnology to improve food security and foster economic growth in Nigeria and the African continent as a whole.

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