BT technology can assist Nigeria’s food security – Solomon

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Just as there have been calls for adoption of genetically modified crops in Africa as a means of providing food for the teeming population, so also there have been objections to its introduction based on ethical and moral issues. Our Correspondent, JIMOH BABATUNDE presents the views of Prof. Bamidele Solomon and Dr. Diran Makinde on this debate.

Prof. Bamidele Ogbe Solomon, Director General, Nigeria Biotechnology Development Agency, is a sad person in the sense that he is pained by the inability of the country to benefit from biotechnology in agriculture because of lack of enabling law. He revealed his pains and others on the issue of biotechnology in agriculture in Nigeria and why the country has been left behind by other countries on the continent. Here is an excerpt .

On biotechnology in agriculture

One of the aspects of the side event which I was supposed to look at as a promoter is regulation. My major concern is that we should not be over regulated.

Because regulation that is not science based could become bias and could stifled even development where people begin to have what you call perceived unintended effect and say if we eat this thing that in hundred years we will develop four legs. Such perception cannot be based on science , so such discussion has to go on.

I also wanted as an agency to see where the other African countries have reached Vis a Vis the East African countries and the direction Nigeria can go.

Already in Nigeria we have three crops in confirmed field trial which is the BT cowpea in Zaria, the African bio fortified sorghum also in Zaria and the Cassava plus in Umudike .

There are many crops that are of great importance both nationally and internationally. For example, is the cotton. We know the Nigerian dilemma is in the sense that almost all the textile mill in the country is closed down and one of the problems is that of shortage of raw materials and now the major raw material for cotton worldwide is from genetically modified cotton (BT Cotton) .

Over 70% of the total world cotton is BT cotton. The Americans, China , South Africa and even Burkina Faso are involved in this BT cotton and we are wearing the cloths made from them, so why can’t we get Nigerians to do it.

So one of the things we need to do as an agency is how to start the domestication of this technology. The genes for this are already own by many companies outside . Monsanto is the leader, they are the one giving the technology to them in Burkina Faso. We have Mayer , which is German. They are giving the technology to them in the Cameroon . Nigeria is now in between, we are looking for partners that will be able to work with us in Nigeria.

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