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Biotechnology can help achieve SDGs, food security, say experts

As the world population is projected towards nine billion in 2050, experts in biotechnology say embracing biotechnological innovations can help to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu
Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation

They said this at the 2nd Recent Advances in Biotechnology Conference and Workshop (RAIB-2021) held in Ibadan, Oyo State, on Monday, October4, 2021. 

In his keynote address, the President, Nigeria Bioinformatics and Genomics Network, Dr Charlse Adetunji, who spoke on innovations for diverse global challenges using functional Bioinformatics approaches, especially during COVID era, underscored the importance of Biotechnology for the future.

He said this could be innovations in bioinformatics on sustainable environment and circular economy as tools in realising SDGs and addressing the challenges of climate change. 

According to him, the world population will reach nine billion by 2050 as Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that agricultural production will have to increase by 60 per cent by then.

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Adetunji said: “Agriculture should undergo a significant transformation to feed the growing global population.

“Climate change adds extra challenges in reaching this goal especially in developing countries, where food insecurity and poverty are prevalent.” 

The expert noted that discovery of a new bioherbicide could assist farmers to prevent the usage of synthetic herbicides, which is one of the threats to food safety, ecosystem and human health.

Also, another keynote speaker, Dr Su Shiung Lam of the University Malaysia Terengganu, who spoke on the “Latest innovation of conversion of waste into value added products through the use of microwave vacuum pyrolysis”, said the process was very efficient and bio-friendly.

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“Microwave vacuum pyrolysis treats waste plastic and used cooking oil simultaneously. It provides high heating rate, short reaction time, low energy and high product yield,” he said.

Lam stated that the solution the world needed was in microwave pyrolysis and bacterial fermentation integrated into the bioplastic production system. 

“It converts commercial plastic waste to biofuel and bio-oil using microwave co-pyrolysis and then produces bioplastic through Bacterial Fermentation of bio-oil,” he said.

Lam, however, is seeking for more collaboration in research from scholars on waste and biomass, among others.

Earlier in his address, the Vice Chancellor, PCU, Prof Kola Oloke, restated the role of biotechnology in reshaping an economy.

“There could be no better time to have this type of workshop, as we urgently need to get out of the devastation that COVID-19 has enforced into our ways of doing things,” he said.

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Oloke, who is also a biotechnologist, said: “At the commencement of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, I was able to lead other scientists in different institutions both in Nigeria and other places to construct two COVID-19 vaccines. 

“Our team is almost rounding off with animal trials of the two vaccines. Since clinical trials of the vaccines will require a lot of money, we urgently need investors who may be willing to join our team in making the vaccines a worthwhile project.”

The three days conference had participants in Bioinformatics and Biotechnology fields from all over Nigeria and outside the country.

By Ibukun Emiola

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