President of Biotechnology Society of Nigeria, Prof. Benjamin Ubi has advised the Federal Government to invest massively in Biotechnology to achieve food security and avert the impending food crisis across the globe.
The advice was fiven as keynote lecture by Ubi at the Biotechnology awareness week and capacity building workshop in Umuahia.
The forum was organised by the Centre for Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), Abia.
The president of the society said that the rising global population and the growing impact of global warming and climate change posed serious adverse effect on agriculture production all over the world, hence the need to check the development.
Ubi, a Professor of Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, Ebonyi State University, said that sub-Sahara Africa “is highly threatened by hunger and malnutrition.”
He said that although Nigeria was not yet in the danger zone, “the country is presently at moderately high hunger.” adding that urgent measures became imperative to develop the nation’s diverse food crops through biotechnology.
He said, “Nigeria is lucky because it has a diversity of food crops but we should not be lazy, rather, we should find ways to develop and harness the crops for greater economic benefits and nutritional value.”
The professor said that with biotechnology, Nigeria could achieve improved crop variety with the resultant high agricultural yield.
In an address of welcome, the Acting Director of the institute, Dr Emmanuel Ekundayo, said that “Biotechnology is changing the world of science and the way of life of human beings around the world.”
Ekundayo further said, “Modern biotechnology is creating breakthrough products and technologies to combat debilitating and rare diseases, feed the hungry, reduce environmental footprint, use less and cleaner energy.’’
According to him, modern biotechnology also ensures ‘’safer, cleaner and more efficient industrial manufacturing processes.”
He said that at least, “13.3million farmers around the world used agricultural biotechnology to increase yields, prevent damage from insects and pests and reduce the farming impact on the environment.
Ekundayo, however, expressed concern that the level of knowledge and capacity to achieve a breakthrough in producing biotechnology was pitifully low in Nigeria.
He listed the challenges limiting progress in biotechnology in Nigeria to include “intellectual apathy, the paucity of facilities to do research in biotechnology and the low level of awareness about the potentialities of biotechnology.”
He also called for investment in biotechnology, especially in the establishment of functional centres of excellence in biotechnology in the universities and research institutes across the country.
Ekundayo, who said that forward-looking nations of the world were investing massively in biotechnology, called on the government to take a cue from such countries toward the development of modern Biotechnology.
“Capability in modern biotechnology will be a major factor for economic competitiveness in the 21st Century.”
He said that the workshop was “designed to stimulate interest and promote knowledge about biotechnology in MOUAU and its environs in line with the mandate of the centre.”
In a goodwill message to the workshop, Prof. Joseph Ukpabi, the Acting Executive Director, National Root Crop Research Institute, Umudike, described the potential of biotechnology as enormous.
Ukpabi was represented by a Director in the institute, Dr Ifeoma Ukwuonu.
He said that the institute had acquired “decades of experience in the application of modern biotechnology tools in breeding, seed multiplication, disease diagnosis, food chemistry and industrial applications.”
He also said the institute was ready to collaborate with MOUAU and other institutions in research on biotechnology that would be of mutual interest and for the nation’s economic viability.
The Vice-Chancellor of MOUAU, Prof. Francis Otunta, expressed the hope that the workshop would come up with recommendations that would help in the development of biotechnology in the university.
He was represented by the Deputy VC (Academic), Prof. Madu Iwe.
The Chairman of the opening ceremony and Director, MOUAU Extension Centre, Prof. Ike Nwachukwu, commended the centre for organising the programme.
He said that the recommendations that would emanate from the workshop would be beneficial to farmers, Nigeria and humanity in general.
Nwachukwu described the theme of the workshop, ‘’Biotechnology: Key to sustainable food security,’’ as apt, in view of the current challenges facing agriculture and the environment.