Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology, on Tuesday emphasised the importance of Genetic Engineering and Genetically Modified Organisms in achieving food security in the country.
Onu said this at a five-day workshop on Basic Laboratory Training on Living Modified Organisms Detection and Identification, hosted by National Biotechnology Development Agency in Abuja on Tuesday.
According to him, genetic engineering and GMOs have important roles to play in the nation’s search to ensure food security.
He said: “It is important that we can feed our citizens and start the process of producing locally, many things that we import with GMOs.’’
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.
He said: “I believe through genetic engineering and biotechnology, that all these plans and more will be achieved.”
Contributing, Prof. Alex Akpa, Director- General, NABDA, said the agency had been supporting initiatives that enhanced credibility and public trust in biotechnology research and deployment.
Akpa said: “Our interventions are very strategic and have led to resounding successes in Bt Cotton commercialization, 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 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 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 in products of biotechnology modification.”
Also speaking, Dr Toyin Ajenifujah-Solebo, Deputy Director, Agricultural Biotechnology Department, NABDA, said the training was an indication that the agency had been delivering on its mandate.
Ajenifujah-Solebo, a course coordinator at the training, said the workshop was also an indication of the scientific capability of the agency and Nigeria to fabricate safe modern biotechnology.
She thanked the sponsors of the training and called for more support to encourage scientists to express their ability.
She said: “It has been an opportunity to share experiences. It shows that Nigeria is indeed a regional leader in biotechnology.”
Austein Mcloughlin, a representative of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada, commended the Federal Government for its support in promoting genetic modification.
Mcloughlin said that the secretariat had been building capacity of developing countries in recognising the importance of implementing the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty governing the movements of Living Modified Organisms resulting from modern biotechnology from one country to another.
It was adopted on January 29, 2000 as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity and entered into force on September 11, 2003.
Mcloughlin said the secretariat had been collaborating with relevant agencies to build the capacity of relevant stakeholders.
He said: “We have been building the capacity of the developing countries in relation to protection and identification of LMOs and other biosafety-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.”
Mcloughlin, however, urged participants to put the knowledge gained during the workshop into practice for the service of their countries and in support of the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
He said the training would provide participants with opportunity to network with other colleagues working in the same field from other countries.
NAN reports that the workshop is organised with support from National Biosafety Management Agency, ICGEB Italy and Secretariat of Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada.
The organisers said the aim of the workshop was to provide participants with understanding of the processes involved in the development of GMOs and LMOs.
The workshop will also provide the participants with new GMOs/LMOs analysis as well as hands-on-experience in the performance of relevant laboratory methods.
No fewer than 30 participants are attending the workshop from various countries across the globe.