Director General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Alex Akpa, has said that scientists are working on the long shelf life of tomatoes.
He made the submission at national summit organised by NABDA and the Nigeria Chapter of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) to update media practitioners on the status of agricultural biotechnology research in the country.
The webinar had in attendance prominent scientists and agricultural biotechnologists, among others.
Prof. Akpa said that after harvesting, farmers and marketers suffer between 30 per cent to 40 per cent loss in transit, hence the need for tomatoes with long shelf life.
Akpa said that researchers were also working on herbicide tolerant soybean, in partnership with Michigan State University in the United States.
He said that 56 samples were sent, which they were trying to multiply to do field trials before eventually transferring to farmers in Nigeria.
“We also have our Microbial Culture Collection (MCC), which was located in the University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State.
According to him, the MCC centre is Nigeria’s heritage for medical, environmental, and industrial applications.
“The facility is very important; we have been on it for quite some time. It is where we can archive and domicile some of our important micro-organisms,’’ Akpa said.
He also spoke about the sperm bank for livestock located in NABDA, a project being executed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with other groups and private companies involved in livestock and animal husbandry.
“This is one research area we are interested in strongly because we need to reduce these herder-farmers clashes.
“We need to support and encourage people to domesticate and do ranching with the technology that can assist in that,’’ he said.
Akpa also gave an update on vaccine development programme, as well as the recently validated RNASwift diagnostic kit for COVID-19.
Earlier, Dr Rose Gidado, Country Coordinator for OFAB in Nigeria, said Nigeria with a projected population of 400 million people by 2050, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the country was faced with the risk of decreased farming population.
She also said that, because of decreased arable land and use of conventional method of agriculture, sustainable food supply cannot be guaranteed.
“Only biotech holds solution to our food security. Agric biotech in most developed countries like USA, Brazil, and Canada among others, have transformed farming into a profitable business.
“With the current state of agriculture in Nigeria, we should also adopt this technology to improve our productivity,’’ she said.
She hinted that research findings had highlighted science communication as one of the variables that was required for the creation of an enabling environment for agricultural biotechnology adoption and usage.
She said effective science communication and awareness to debunk unscientific myths about agric biotech and its tools had moved away from being urgent to an emergency.
She said this was because many poor countries that agric biotech was supposed to benefit the most were being deprived due to false information.
Gidado listed the objectives of the summit to include improving biotechnology reporting in the media, capacity building of media practitioners, to enhance the scope of biotechnology reasoning of the media, among others.
By Sylvester Thompson