The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), and the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), held a national media summit to update media practitioners on the status of agricultural biotechnology research in Nigeria.
The summit was a webinar event intended to keep major media firms in the country versed with the latest research work of prominent scientists, agricultural biotechnologists, professors, academics, and others in the field of agricultural biotechnology .
The Diretor General of the NABDA, Prof Alex Akpa, in his opening speech, revealed that scientists were working on the long shelf life of tomatoes.
He disclosed that more than after harvesting, farmers and marketers suffer up 30 to 40 percent loss in transit, hence they would address this with the development of long shelf life of tomatoes.
Akpa said another area they were working on was herbicide tolerant soybean, in partnership with Michigan State University in the United States.
He revealed that they were sent 56 samples of which they were trying to multiply in order to do field trials before eventually transferring to farmers in Nigeria.
“We also hae our Microbial Culture Collection(MCC), which was located in the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers.
According to him ,the MCC centre was 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, saying that was in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, 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 this herder-farmers clashes.
“We need to support and encourage people to domesticate and do ranching amd this the technology that can assist in that,’’ he said.
He also gave update on their vaccine development programme and as well as the recently validated RNASwift diagnostic kit for COVID-19.
Earlier, Dr Rose Gidado, Country Coordinator for OFAB in Nigeria, had set the tone and objectives for the summit.
Gidado said they were at the opening new stage of a promising new chapter in creating awareness by lending their voices as scientists to the importance of science and technology to national development.
She 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 mentioned decreased arable land, poverty, malnutrition and hunger due to the conventional method of agriculture which could no longer meet up with demand.
“Only biotech holds solution to our food security. Agric biotech in most developed countries like USA, Brazil,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 improe our productivity, as well as use the potential,of this technology top aid in deision making by policy makers,’’she said.
She hinted that research findings had highlighted science communication as one of the ariables 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 whom agricbiotech was supposed to benefit the most were being deprived due to false information.
Gidado stated the objectives of the summit to include improving biotechnology reporting in the media, capacity building on the media practitioners, to enlarge the scope of biotechnology reasoning of the media, among others.
Dr Rufus Ebegba, Director General of National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), spoke extensively on safety concerns of genetically modified organisms and biosafety, regulatory score for the NBMA, and stages of biosafety procedures.
Prof Chiedozie Egesi, Project Manager of Next Gen Cassava, lectured on the status of VIRCA Plus Project and how it could be used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
Egesi, who is also a joint staff of National Root crop Research Institute, Umudike and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture(IITA), said Nigeria recognised biofortification as a sustainable intervention strategy to manage micronutrients deficiencies.
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