GMO crops can help mitigate food shortage in Nigeria — OFAB

The Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Nigeria chapter, on Tuesday said that Genetically Modified Crops (GMOs) would play a vital role in mitigating against food shortage in Nigeria during, and after COVID-19 lockdown.

Dr Rose Gidado, the Country Coordinator of OFAB in Nigeria, made this known in Abuja.

Gidado, a Scientist said that GMOs provide high yielding crop varieties that could perform well under drought conditions, resistant to pests and diseases and could also utilise nutrients more efficiently from the soil.

According to her, Biotech (Bt) cotton and Bt cowpea (beans) are two examples of genetically modified (GM) crops that are high yielding, insect and disease resistant.

Gidado, is also Deputy Director, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), assured that these crops were also climate smart, matured early and performed well under drought condition.

She said both crops were released recently by the National Varietal Release Committee (NVRC), with Nigeria being the first country in the world to develop and release Bt cowpea.

“The cowpea is a variety that Nigerian farmers prefer. It took 10 years to come out with this safe and wholesome food crop at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria.

“It had been developed to resist the insect lava called maruca vitiate destruction.

“This insect lava destroys the leaves, the flowers and the pods of the beans during its production cycle,’’ she said.

The OFAB Coordinator said that to be able to get good yield, farmers had to spray pesticides up to eight times otherwise, they might end up losing 80 to 90 per cent  of their produce.

According to her, as a result of this, breeders thought it wise to develop the beans variety that would be able to resist the insect destruction.

She said that although the crop was now ready for commercialisation, but commercial planting, demonstration plots would be established on farmers fields alongside their varieties in preparation for adoption.

Gidado also said that other crops under development were nitrogen use efficiency, water  use efficiency and salt use tolerant at the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), among others.

She warned that there was a likely that the country could run into a serious food shortage and food insecurity might set in without the adoption of GMO seeds at this critical time.

NAN reports that OFAB is an Informative platform that brings together stakeholders in the field of Biotechnology and the public.

The infomative platform enabled interactions, sharing and of knowledge, experiences, contacts and exploring new avenues of bringing the benefits of biotechnology to Agricultural sector.

Biotech crops contribute to reducing the environmental impact of productive agriculture. One of the most significant benefits of using biotech crops is the reduction in on-farm use. (NAN)