The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) said all is set to establish a gene transformation laboratory that will help reduce agro-chemical contamination in animals and plants, and eradicate diseases in human health and the environment in the country.
The director-general of NABDA, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, made this known in his opening remarks during a three-day training on genome editing communication training organised by the Alliance for Science (AfS) housed in the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), USA in partnership with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) under the auspices of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) held in Abuja.
He stated that the lab will ensure that Nigerian researchers and scientists have a world standard laboratory to carry out research to enhance food security rather than waiting to conduct the research in advanced labs outside the country before significant progress is made in their research.
Mustapha further underscored the importance of innovative, emerging technologies such as gene editing, saying it has the potential to reduce environmental pollution by reducing the use of agrochemical contaminants and eradicating diseases.
According to him, policy and communication of gene editing can foster the development of the social well-being in our society.
“NABDA is open to collaborating with any institution interested in science and biotechnology in Africa,” he said.
In his remarks, the head, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Abuja station, Prof. Lateef Sanni said gene editing is very important in helping society address the issues of food security because it offers cheaper options at development of virile seeds.
“Effective communication is very important. How best do you communicate to yourself and to the outside world to secure food security in Nigeria?” he asked.
In her remarks, the executive director, Alliance for Science (AfS), Dr. Sheila Ochugboju disclosed that the AFS is interested in promoting food security, healthy nutrition and ratifying climate change.
“To solve the problem of hunger in Nigeria, we make sure that most Africans do not go hungry.
“We have technology that helps us solve problems of poor soil, economic crises, food and climate change. We have the technology for gene editing. Science communication helps to save lives, just as we create communication space in the minds of people,” she said.
While speaking, a plant biotechnologist from IITA, Dr. Valentine Ntui said that gene editing is targeted and precise changes in the genome of an organism which result in gene modifications or mutations using molecular scissors called nucleases.
Ntui explained that gene editing does not isolate, can generate multiple editing, produce climate smarts crops, less expensive, it modifies the organism genome using the organism’s machinery.
He added that Nigeria is the first to develop guidelines on gene editing followed by Kenya.