The Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria has come out strong in favour of modern biotechnology in view of raging controversy on whether Nigeria is ready and prepared to deploy the technology.
The Director, IAR, Prof. Ibrahim Abubakar told journalists on a study tour of the institute facilitated by AATF/OFAB/PBS that: “we are not afraid of talking about the technology because we have both the human capacity and facilities to undertake research in modern biotechnology for the benefit of the nation.”
“Biotechnology is one of the most potent tools available to plant breeders today to address issues regarding farming globally. At IAR, we have succeeded in using this technology at the laboratory level to address some of the challenges our farmers face, we cannot deny how important this technology is, we have tested it and found it to be very good,” he said.
“We are surprised that opposition to this technology is on the increase in the country; we should not let ourselves to be used by those who do not want us to progress as a nation. Biotechnology is science and it is our duty as scientists to lead discussions on the subject matter,” he added.
He said that as a scientific institute, it is their responsibility to explore and make appropriate recommendations to the public: “The verdict of our interactions with the technology in the last ten years in the institute is this: it is safe, economical and does not pose any danger to human health or the environment”.
Country Coordinator, Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) Dr Mathew Dore, used the opportunity of the tour to challenge Nigerian scientists to proudly talk about the technology rather than leave the stage for charlatans.
“Nigeria has the needed human resources to champion the deployment of modern biotechnology and its products. Our scientists cannot afford to leave the stage for non-scientists, who go about distorting facts and cooking up figures, to decide for us what to do with the technology,” he added.
In a presentation, Prof Ishiyaku Mohammad, a research scientist and Principal Investigator for the Bt Cowpea project at IAR said that the technology, especially one of its products; genetic modification, holds a lot of potentials for the nation’s quest to revive farming and make it profitable.
Prof. Ishiyaku said, with the nation’s annual deficit of beans at 3.6 million tons and resulting in the country importing over N20 billion worth of beans annually, the technology remained the only viable option for the nation to address these inadequacies.
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