To adequately tackle the challenges confronting the country’s food sector and lift it out of current state of emergency, agricultural scientists have submitted that recent advancements in biotechnology must be deployed to the nation’s food system.
The biotechnology scientists argued that the much desired food sufficiency and food safety would be attainable if relevant agro-tech is applied.
At a one-day interactive session on “Navigating Biotech Frontiers for Accurate Science Communication” for editors held in Lagos by the Nigerian chapter of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, an initiative of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) under the auspices of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), said the workshop was aimed at enlightening and enabling science journalists to clearly understand and disseminate information on biotechnology and bio-safety matters to the public. This, they said, will enable policymakers take suitable decisions about genetically modified crops.
The sensitisation workshop was also targeted at arming the participants with accurate and current information about GMOs so that they can effectively inform the public.
Speaking during the workshop, the Director General/CEO, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, stated that, “agricultural biotechnology must be understood, accepted and embraced by the general public. It is a collective responsibility to guarantee that all Nigerians have access to accurate and fair information concerning agricultural biotechnology, which will enable them to make informed decisions about its applications.”
Prof. Mustapha noted that, “the media plays a crucial role in informing the public about these advancements and their implications. It is the bridge that connects complex scientific discoveries with the broader society, translating technical jargon into understandable language and fostering informed discussions. Therefore, it is imperative that we engage in a constructive dialogue on how the media can better cover agricultural biotechnology, biosafety and related topics.”
For Dr. Rose M. Gidado, the Director, Agricultural Biotechnology Department, NABDA, “biotechnology offers new tools for increasing agricultural productivity and protecting food crops from climate changes such as heat, floods and drought.”
She said, “the use of biotechnology tools in Nigerian agriculture is now necessary due to the current state of emergency in the country’s food and agricultural sector. To date, no evidence of safety or health risks has been linked to the two commercial biotech crops, Bt Cotton and PBR Cowpea, which are already available in the market.”
Also speaking, the Director General/CEO of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Agnes Yemisi Asagbra, emphasised that modern biotechnology has advanced quickly, creating new regulatory requirements that must be met in order to protect human health and the environment while also utilising the potential that biotechnology presents to the country.
She noted that, “in order to address the various global and national concerns/challenges in the fields of human health, agriculture, environment and industry, modern biotechnology application inside a legal framework can be a beneficial instrument.”
According to Iweajunwa Sarah Ogochukwu, Head, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology & Biotech Awareness, “the objectives of the workshop, among others, include to enlighten and keep the participants up-to-date with the developments in agricultural biotech as well as addressing the misconception about the safety of the technology and to build the capacity of the participants for improved editorial decision-making on issues related to agricultural biotech.”
Agricultural biotechnology holds the ace for transforming the nation’s food indices, and for economic growth and national development.