An Academic and a Biological Engineer at the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Sheffield, Dr. Allison Nwokeoji says that the adoption of Biotechnology in Nigeria’s agriculture can help the nation attain food security.
The University Don who asserted this in an exclusive interview with AgroNigeria said Biotechnology can be successfully implemented in Nigeria and the continent if the leadership is willing to invest and partner with institutes or countries who are already using the technology.
Dr. Nwokeoji expressed that to surmount the myriads of challenges facing agriculture today and cope with the realities of population growth in the country, there is a need for an agricultural production enhanced with modern and effective technology such as Biotechnology.
“The truth is that we are losing almost 80 percent of the little crops that we produce to pests and diseases. The remaining is rendered almost inedible by contamination with high levels of chemical pesticides or toxins.
“This is where biotechnology can help us. Today, scientists are developing biological molecules that can fight crop pests but have no impact on humans, animals and the environment.” He stated
Dr Nwokeoji explained that “Biotechnology in the broadest sense means utilizing biological systems to make products.”
” Although it is not immediately obvious but when you think of it many forms of human-based agriculture practiced for thousands of years fit that broad definition” he noted
On the safety concerns expressed by anti-GMO crusaders, the University Don whose current research interests include the development of next generation RNA-based biopesticides as well as the platform for the manufacturing and analysis of molecules stressed that “There are biotechnological applications for agriculture that does not necessarily involve engineering of crops”
According to him “the application of the RNA-based biopesticide we are developing is a product of biotechnology and it can be used to control insect pests without necessarily modifying the crop.”
He stressed that “the biopesticides can be sprayed the same way as chemical pesticides but is safer for humans, animals and the environment. The active ingredient is a biological molecule that easily degrades in the environment.”
He however urged the Federal Government government to ensure strict regulations so the country does not become dumping ground of unsafe Biotech products.
“We need to work with the public every step of the way and educate them on how biotechnology works. Leaders and government should work with experts to implement necessary policies that will guide the practice and implementation of biotechnology.” He stated
It would be recalled that, on October 7, 2019, Nigeria made history by becoming the first country in the world to approve biotech cowpea, thereby adding a new biotech crop to the global Biotech basket.