By Abigael Joshua, Abuja.
Stakeholders in the country’s biotechnology sector on Tuesday in Abuja reaffirmed their readiness to collaborate in finding solutions to the food crisis facing Nigeria.
They all voicewd their determination during an annual conference on National Biosafety and Biosecurity, organised by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).
The two-day conference has “Biological Safety: An Imperative for increasing Population, Food Security and Environmental Sustainability” as its theme.
At the event, the Minister of Environment, Mr Mohammed Abdullahi, said that food security was crucial for the good health, peace, stability and survival of a nation.
The minister, who was represented by Dr Lawrence Adigwe, Director, Human Resources in the ministry, said that a secured nation was one that cultivated its own food, processed what it produced, competed confidently in international markets and created job for its citizens.
“Let me assure you of the Federal Government’s determination to partner with all stakeholders in exploring the use of relevant technologies that would provide safe and adequate food for Nigerians.
“You will agree with me that nothing is more important than food and that a nation that fails to feed its people is a failed state.
“Government of the day acknowledges the role of agriculture in long-term economic growth and food security.
“Hence, its commitment to adopting any safe technology that would facilitate its food security and economic recovery drive for the country,” he said.
Abdullahi said that in a demonstration of government’s commitment, NBMA was established to enable Nigerians to benefit maximally from the practice of safe modern biotechnology.
He added that essentially, the agency was charged with the responsibility to ensure safety measures in the application of modern biotechnology in Nigeria.
“This is to ensure the safe practice of modern biotechnology, the use and the handling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to avert adverse impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, considering its risk to human health.
“The agency is here to safeguard the environment, human health of all Nigerians, taking into consideration national interest and socio-economic issues from potential adverse impacts of modern biotechnology and GMOs.
“Nigerians should be rest assured of the protection of their health and the environment by NBMA on matters concerning GMOs,” he said.
Prof. Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Abuja, said that the conference was apt and that the outcome would help to ensure a strong and efficient biosafety and biosecurity system in Nigeria.
Na’Allah, who was represented by Prof. Wasiu Gabadeen, Director of Studies, said that the issues of biosafety and biosecurity were undoubtedly sectors with great input in the nation’s national development.
“As you all may be aware, biosafety is an issue within the area of biological diversity, which is aimed at protecting the environment and human health from the possible adverse effects of modern biotechnology and its products,” he said.
The Director-General of NBMA, Dr Rufus Ebegba, said that the conference would focus on how to improve on the national biosafety and biosecurity system in the country.
“This year’s conference is to ensure that biosafety and biosecurity are pursued vigorously.
“We brought this year’s edition of the conference to the university system, for them to also have the opportunity to know what is on ground.
“We want to also focus on what is biosafety and biosecurity within the academic system because biosecurity is also key in the research community as well as biosafety,” Ebegba said.