The Director-General of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, says eight million Nigerian farmers will benefit directly from cultivating the recently launched genetically modified insect resistant cowpea variety.
Mustapha said this at the maiden edition of the agency’s annual media chat at NABDA’s headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday, December 15, 2021.
The director general said that, already, “the value chain created by the Biotech (Bt) cowpea alone has created thousands of job opportunities where people will be employed,.’
He said the commercialisation of NABDA’s two genetically modified cowpea and cotton would contribute to Nigeria’s quest for attainment of food security.
According to him, farmers who have embraced the Bt cotton had recorded huge profits.
The director general noted that the two crops would create thousands of jobs along the production value chain.
“The value chain of cotton from the farmers to processors, cottage industry workers, to the spinning and textile industry will indeed create job openings that government is clamouring for.’’
Mustapha disclosed that the agency was in the process of producing genetically modified soya beans, which would be herbicide tolerant and beneficial to the nation.
He said when introduced, the soya beans could be processed into margarine, milk and oil, as well as lubricant and could replace petrol.
On the agency’s next phase of commercialisation, he said a genetically modified maize would be released in the next 18 months.
Mustapha listed other key projects to include development and commercialisation of indigenous Yoghurt Starter Cultures and thermos-tolerant yeasts for production of second generation bio-ethanol.
“This will aid national growth and accelerate socio-economic well-being of Nigerians and Africans,’’ he said.
The NABDA boss assured that the trans-disciplinary research conducted in its laboratories would also lead to cures for human diseases, improve livestock quality and new technologies.
He explained that these would apply to the field of medicine, agriculture, environment and industry which were all built around genetics, biochemistry, genomics and bioinformatics.
The director general added that a focal objective of the research was the improvement of crop yields and seeds’ resilience to adverse climatic conditions.
“We have revolutionalised yam seedlings production. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency’s targets of seven million seedlings have largely been successful with over two million produced and distributed to farmers.
“Amidst the pandemic challenges, we are harnessing biotechnology innovation for economic recovery and sustainability, particularly with reference to vaccine production, tests kits, DNA fingerprinting and enhanced drug production,’’ Mustapha said.
By Sylvester Thompson