Declare emergency in food production, says OFAB Country Coordinator

Dr Rose Gidado, Country Coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) has advised the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in food production.

Gidado also said that the country should adopt Genetic Modification (GM) technology during and after coronavirus pandemic to ensure food sustainability.

Speaking in an interview on Monday, she said that achieving sustainable food supply in Nigeria, under the COVID-19 era, would be difficult without declaring a state of emergency in food production and adopting appropriate technologies in agriculture.

According to her, whether or not the country will be able to recover from the looming food crisis only depend on the type of approaches adopted.

Gidado, also a Deputy Director, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) disclosed that the technology of genetic modification of crops was a promising tool in mitigating the negative effect of the pandemic on food security.

“It involves the manipulation of genes in a living organism to make or modify biological product or to improve the organism for specific uses.

“It enhances food security through the production of foods with longer shelf life, higher yields, increased nutritional content, shorter harvest time, disease and pest resistance as well as stress tolerant,’’ the OFAB coordinator said.

She further said that the application of GM in agriculture to create resistant plant resources had been used to achieve food security in some advanced countries.

Gidado said that climate smart GM seeds that would reduce the need for routine farm practices while ensuring higher yields should be adopted by the government and other stakeholders.

She assured that the combination of agricultural biotechnology tools offered an exciting and environmentally responsible way to meet consumer demand for sustainable agriculture in this period of COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

.She urged government to invest in remote sensing and satellite imagery, which means big data, internet of things, among others for agricultural activities.

“This will help in monitoring crop status, diseased or distressed, estimate crop yield, identify fertilisation and pesticide needs as well as early warning for insect attacks,’’ Gidado said.

She advised the government to look into the establishment of an irrigation regime, which was an Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and agricultural drones.

The OFAB boss disclosed that these had been proven as practice to reduce human contact in agriculture, necessary in curbing the spread of coronavirus.

She stressed the need for investment in human capital development and infrastructure, adding that high literacy level meant rapid adoption of new technologies and innovations.

She noted that good roads promote easy transportation of farm produce.

Gidado said that availability of agricultural input like fertiliaer, certified seeds of improved varieties and agro-chemicals through smart input subsidies to farmers would increase food production and secure national food supply.

“There should be rapid scale up of food production technologies, including drought- tolerant maize hybrids, heat tolerant wheat varieties, high yielding sorghum hybrids, early maturing and high yielding rice varieties,” Gidado said.(NAN)