The Minister of Science Technology and Innovation, Sen. Adeleke Mamora, has highlighted the potential of genome editing (GE) technology to revitalise agricultural productivity, promote food security and support sustainable development in Nigeria.
Speaking during a two-day workshop organised by the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology and Innovation (CoE STI) in collaboration with the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), the minister said that despite being the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, agriculture still faces many challenges that affect productivity, such as poor land tenure system, low levels of irrigation farming, climate change and land degradation.
According to Mamora, Nigeria’s extant biosafety guidelines are robust and explicit on genome-edited products, providing the necessary regulatory environment for the introduction and adoption of genome-editing tools for the innovation of products and services for the teeming Nigerian populace. The AUDA-NEPAD initiative on GEd, focused on innovation and building research and development capacities towards the commercialisation of genome-edited agricultural products for improved livelihood is, therefore, a timely intervention.
The minister praised the CoE STI for bringing together experts in research and academic institutions from across the country to deliberate on issues of national importance and commended NABDA for piloting the project and inventing sustainable solutions through well-focused research and development in priority areas of agriculture, health, industry and environment for national development.
The workshop, which aimed to advance genome editing tools to address problems in different sectors of the economy, focused on brainstorming and developing a roadmap towards the development of agriculture in the country.
According to the director-general of NABDA, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, the crops suitable for genome editing in Nigeria include developed variations of cotton, cowpea, soybeans and other crops that can be used as food, as well as for industrial supply for development in the country.
The acting director of AUDA-NEPAD, Florence Nazare emphasised that genome-editing products through modern biotechnology are tools that Africans can use to produce safer products not limited only to agriculture but capable of enhancing other sectors.
The head of the CoE STI based in South Africa, AUDA-NEPAD, Prof. Olalekan Akinbo, highlighted the need for more resources for research in Africa to ensure innovation and industrialisation.