The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Tuesday stressed the importance of genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in achieving food security in the country.
Onu said this at a five-day workshop on Basic Laboratory Training on Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) Detection and Identification, hosted by the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) in Abuja.
According to him, genetic engineering and GMOs have important roles to play in the nation’s search to ensure food security.
“It is important that we can feed our citizens and start the process of producing locally, many things that we import with GMOs,” he said.
Onu commended NABDA for the work it had done in GMOs, adding that the ministry would continue to support the agency on biotechnology activities.
He said the ministry would also support the agency in its mandate to protect the environment in ensuring that the desire of the country to industrialise is achieved.
“I believe through genetic engineering and biotechnology, that all these plans, and more will be achieved.”
Contributing, NABDA’s director-general, Prof. Alex Akpa, said the agency had been supporting initiatives that enhanced credibility and public trust in biotechnology research and deployment.
He said, “Our interventions are very strategic and have led to resounding successes in Bt Cotton commercialisation, approval for release of Bt Cowpea and even more recently, massive production of yam seedlings for the Nigerian yam value chain.
“Perhaps, more pertinent today is the enactment of the Bio-Safety Bill and establishment of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), both of which received strong support from NABDA. The Bio-safety Bill has stimulated more activities in the deployment of biotechnology.
“These heightened interests have increased the need for NBMA regulation and approval of genetically modified (GM) crops and related activities in Nigeria.
“Given these developments, NABDA considered it apt to embark on capacity building on detection and identification of Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) in products of biotechnology modification.”
Also speaking, a representative of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), Canada, Mr. Austein Mcloughlin, commended the federal government for its support in promoting genetic modification.
Mcloughlin said the secretariat had been building capacity of developing countries in recognising the importance of implementing the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
“We have been building the capacity of the developing countries in relation to protection and identification of LMOs and other bio-safety-related disciplines.
“Thanks to kind support and contribution of the Government of Nigeria and Republic of Korea for providing financial assistance for this workshop and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB),” he said. (NAN)