The Director-General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Addullahi Mustapha, says biotechnology can play a vital role to increase the country’s food security by 50 per cent in 2050.
Mustapha said this in an interview on Friday, March 26, 2021 said in Abuja.
He said that biotech crops could address food challenges such as population growth, urbanisation and ageing as listed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Others are climate change, agricultural productivity and innovation, transboundary pests and diseases, nutrition and health as well as food losses and waste.
He said that the deployment of biotechnology tools could enable plant breeders to adapt effectively to climate change, especially staple crops such as rice, maize and cassava among others.
He said these crops with the help of biotechnology could express vital micronutrients necessary to boost the immune system, make it cost effective and available to all.
“Biotechnology allows improvement of dietary supplement with multi-vitamins, bioactive lipids, flavonoids and herbs as a tool to support the human immune system against COVID-19 and other related diseases.
“Such nutrient-dense foods are often not accessible by the poor and rural inhabitants due to cost and other necessary reasons,’’ he said.
Mustapha said that, with the commercialisation of two genetically modified crops, biotech cotton and cowpea, Nigeria was already on its way to attaining food security and nutrition security.
“The Federal Government can intensify efforts to deploy biotechnology tools into the agricultural sector that will lead to mass production of functional foods at very cheap and affordable,’’ he said.
He also highlighted the concerns in the application of biotechnology to include ethical concerns emerging from the use of the technology to manipulate and transform nature.
He mentioned perceived human health, environmental and socioeconomic risks that modern biotechnology might cause.
He said that there were also concerns about gene flow and other environmental concerns, uncertainty about the potential of GM technology as well as its promises and risks.
“These concerns led to the development of Biosafety Regulations for GM crops,’’ Mustapha said.
He urges Nigerians to invest in biotechnology research, particularly in the area of vaccine and drugs development as well as agriculture.
For example, maize, cotton and other related biotech crops were genetically modified.
Mustapha said that these would facilitate and lead to cleaner environment and industrial development.
By Sylvester Thompson