• Monday, May 20, 2024
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Nigeria’s food security – is agricultural biotechnology good option?

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Certain natural phenomenon such as drought, flooding, outbreak of diseases and pests, excessive high temperatures pose immense challenges to food security in many countries, and Nigeria is not excluded. Agricultural biotechnology however is being used to produce crops and livestock that are resistant or can withstand these problems. The National Biotechnology Development Agency and the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology in a recent publication highlight some of the benefits of agricultural biotechnology. Excerpts by OLUYINKA ALAWODE:

Agricultural biotechnology

This is simply defined as the application of scientific techniques to improve plants, animals and micro-organisms. It is a key element to fight against hunger and malnutrition in developing countries such as Nigeria. Less land is becoming available and arable for cultivation due to over-farming and erosion. Biotechnology would use less land to produce more food.

Technique

Biotechnology is not fundamentally different from other breeding techniques and does not pose unacceptable risks. It is a refinement of breeding techniques that has been used to improve plants for thousands of years.

Economy

Agricultural biotech would result in better economy, in developed countries such as America, farmers have adopted bio-tech product as it decreases their operating costs and expenses. This, in Nigeria, would help peasant farmers to continue their production of food and thus would in turn be a landmark to achieving the Vision 20:20 goal of the country as developed nations such as China are reaping the dividends of a bio-based economy.

Allergies

Developers of foods enhanced through biotech are mindful of the possibility, though it is unlikely that allergen would be introduced into that food, guidelines are also put in place to test for allergenicity compared with its counterparts.

Safety

Foods using biotechnology are safe to eat as food produced using traditional breeding practices. In the United States, for over two decades the products of biotechnology have been assessed for safety and to date no approved biotechnology food has harmed human health.

Benefits

•The increased production of food and supply due to modification of crops to resist pests, weeds and be disease resistant

•Limit the use of hazardous pesticides

•Reduce the amount of land required for farming

•Decrease in food cost due to increased yield and reduction in cost of production of food

•Safety is guaranteed with Genetically Modified (GM) foods due to rigorous testing when compared to organic counterpart.

•Production of more nutritious food varieties. For example, the Vitamin A enriched rice (golden rice) which would help reduce cases of night blindness

•GMO (for example Algae) would also serve as a resource to producing bio-fuels, thus reducing cost of bio-fuels and increasing availability.

How is agricultural biotechnology used?

Genetic engineering: This is the transfer of useful traits such as resistance to disease to plant, animal or micro-organisms by inserting the genes from another organism

Molecular markers: This involves examining DNA of organisms and using molecular markers to select plants or animals that possess a desirable gene. For example, its application to produce cassava that is resistant to mosaic diseases.

Molecular diagnosis: This is used to detect gene or gene products that are specific. It is used to accurately diagnose diseases.

Vaccines: This involves the development of cheaper, safer and better vaccines (compared to traditional vaccines).

Tissue culture: This is the generation of plants in the laboratory from disease free parts. Thus, allowing for generation of disease free crops. Examples include citrus, pineapple, mangoes, banana and papaya.

OLUYINKA ALAWODE