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Ministers, Researchers Identify Benefits Of Biotechnology, Canvass Passage Of Biosafety Bill ' From Gordi Udealah, Umuahia

TAKEHOLDERS in agricultural biotech· nology met two weeks ago at the National Roo t Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Umudike, Abia State, calling for an urgent pas· sage of the biosafety bill expected to regulate the practice of biotechnology in the country. The one-day meeting was an Open Forum On Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), featuring the formal commissioning of the N14 million new Biotechnology Research Centre at the NRCRI, said to be fund ed by the Education Trust Fund (ETF). Minster of Agriculture and Rural Development, Professor Sheikh Ahmed Abdullah, described the event as epoch making, jointly orga.nised by the National Biotechnology Devel?pment Agency (NABDA), African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and Agricultura l Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN). He sa id the forum was to facilitate the flow of information on agricultural technology and biosafety issues between th e general public and technologydevelo~ers. "Ourgatheringt(}gether here in NRCRI: he said, "is in recogni-






player in, and collaborator with, all releva nt institutes in the field of biotechnology. 'The target of this administration is to improve ca· pacity for the domestication of biotechnology in Nigeria by constructing add itionallabora· tories and building the capacity of personnel to conduct research into the area of genetic engineering, Director General of the National Biotech· nology DevelopmentAgency (NABDA), Profe sso r Bamidele Solomon , sa id in his add ress that, since April 2009, when t he open forum started its public activiti es , a sizeable number of participants who regu· larly attend have acquired a better appreciation of the biotechnology concept and have exhibited a renewed hope that the int,ractable challenges par· tl cularly In the era of food production could be overco me after all, with the emer· gent tec hnologies. Accordi ng to him, "open fo rum on agri· cultural biotech nology (OFAB) has popu·

la ri sed biotechnology to such an extent that th e planning committee has been told to move th e forum" to places at the grassroots, outside Abuja, On the biosafety law, he said that interna· tional conve ntio n requJres that any coun-

try desirous of pra ctising biotechnology must put in place a nationa l regulation s. This impli es that "without a biosafety law, the res ults of confined field trials under· take n in the research institutes across the country will remain on the shelves of research and will never reac h com mercia li sation."

NRCRJ's execu tive director, Dr Kenneth Nwosu, sa id tha t, over the years, his insti· tu te has en deavoured to fulfill its natio nal mandate to cond uct research into the ge· netic Improveme nt, production, processing, storage, utilisation and marketi ng of root and tuber crops of economic importance which it does from six experi· mental substations located in various agro·

ecologies of Nigeria. According to Nwos u, NRCRI is now the first institute in Nigeria to receive approvals for the conduct of any confined fi eld trial of a, genetically·modified (GM) crop plant on the basis of the national biosafety gu ideli nes. He expressed optimism that the national biosafety law will soon be in place to enable NRCRI fully participate in agricu ltural bio technology research in ord er to reap its benefits. , Science and Technology minister, Professor Mohammed Kao'je Abubakar, represented by Professor Bamidele Solomon, said that his ministry recognises the critica l role of agriculture in the economy of the country. He said that econom ic growth goes hand in hand with agricultural progress whil e stag· nati on could be an explanati on for poor economic performance, The sess ion drew participants from millistries, ADP, farmers' groups and the academia,


agric ul tura l biotechnology as it has emerged as one of the pacesetters in the adaptation of agricultural biotechnology with the com missioning of a new Biotechnology Research Cenrre;nneromtomaK,'-rracentfeofexcetrence": The minister, stated that despite current efforts to increase food production, hunger and food irisecurity still persists, adding that this has underscored the importance of biotechnology research, "Over the last 20 years, improved crops varieties have accounted

for an estimated half of agricultural productiviryenhancement programmes,"

Hec6ntinu ed : "we therefo re need new solutions to increaSi ng agricultural productivity to combat hunger and poverty amo ng our people." He described agricultural biotechnology as "a proven tool which, when complemented with traditional breeding and novel resource management, can increase

productivity," He ' listed the benefits of biotechnology as including the reduction in excessive use of pesticides and agro inp uts and thus less impact on the environment, re-

duced impact of plant diseases pests, breeding of stress-toleran t crops that withstand vagaries of changing climate, including the enablement of diagnosis of livestock diseases and vaccines production, production of numerous crops with enhanced nutritional quality to improve the heal th and nutritiona l status of farmers and consumers. According to the minister, his ministry has given full support to the passage of the National Biosafety Bill and will also be an active

Oirecto~ General of the Int erna~ i on a! Inst itute ~ f Tr o~i~a l A gric ~ltu re (IITA), Dr. Peter Harlmann (left). Finnish Ambassador. H.E. Anneli Vuorinen , Swedish Ambassador, H.E. Per Lindgarde; and Norwegian Ambassador, H.E. KJBII Ulleru d dUring a vlsl1 to the Institute in Ibadan ... on Tuesday

Nordic Ambassadors Laud I1TA's Research Eambassadors from Finland , Norway, and Sweden have commended the quali ty of resea rch and scientifi c professionalism d isplayed at t he International In stitute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in fighting hunger a nd 'poverty in tropicaf countries, During their visit to IITA-West Africa in Ibadan, Her Excell ency Anneli Vuorinen, Finland'sAmbassadorra Nigeria, sa id "the level of excell ence and kno.wledge at IITA


is extraordina ry," A release from

IlTAafter the visit showed that the visit a nd th e diplomats' observation further reinforced the imper-

ative for agricultural research to address the Chall enges of food insecurity in tropical countries.IITA, established in 1967, was described as one of the world's leading research partners in find ing solutions to hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. The institute's wo rk with partners, using the research for development (R4D) approach, as observed, enhance crop quality and productivity, reduce producer and consumer risks, and generate

wealth from agriculture. The institute, since inception, has con-

tributed to building the capacities of scie ntists in tropical nations, thereby helping to stabilise the national research system, especia lly those in sub-Sa haran Africa. "Improved maize varieties released by the institute today make up 60 per cent of farmers' preferred varieties in West and Central Africa. The biologica l control programmes of th e institute against food crop pests saved cassava, a major staple in Africa," said Dr. Peter Hartmann, IITA s director general. Norway's Ambassador, His Excellency Kjell lillerud, said he was proud of his government's support to IITA and th e pos itive outcomes that research has had on the lives of people in the tropics, "I am happy my country is supporting IITA and 1 am impressed with the work here," he said, Among the areas visited by the ambassadors were the institute's Genetic Resources Centre, w]lich

holds in trust for the world the largest coll ection of cowpea and other crops sU,ch as soybean, cas-

sava, maize, yam, and banana, among others, The team also visited the Bioscience Centre and the IITA's forest-one of the few surviving secondary forests in th e West African region, where thou sands of indigenous tree seedlings are

being raised for reforestation. The Swed ish Ambassador, His Excellency Per Lindgarde, who was ins trum ental In organisll1g the VISIt, sa Id hIS country appreciated the positive Impacts IITA's work has had on food productIOn 111

Afri ca, "We see the va lue in the work IITA is doing and we wi ll continue to give our support," he said, The visi t provided t he Nordic ambassadors and IITAAdmi nistration theopportunitytoexplorea broad range of development challenges,

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~GM;USDA SignMoU OnAfric~n Food:Security :

E AlIia!.)"e for a, (;teell R¢vQiI,ltfon, ip I\frica pess, ,USDA nilS ~ wealri1 of expenise in many critical IAGM)andrheUnttedStateSPepa!'OnentofAgI'V ar~as pf agr1,cu,lture development, and tnis agree, , culture (USDA),on ~hu rsd,ay,h~s Slgp~O a MeI)1o, m~l1t wIll ~n1\lile us to share t hat Imowledge and. of UnderstandIng (M.oU) to explore ways of (the) res?urce$ to benefitsm~l1holder farmers across, relpln~ smallh?lder fa, rmers 111 Africa thro, ugh coorthe , e,',ntlfe fo,oli -value, chain .in Africa," said Dr.,' plnared reseafoh,excb1\nges, tr-jlining<lnddevelop_ Ngongi. " " ' " : mcmaCtlVltJ6S. " __ _ , .:', " , "Tl)e inter-rc1atedchallenges'of If,lobal food security " ACC,o,rdiQj\' t,o il.release from ",GM, m ,Na, !f,obI.: th, e a, re,' m, r,e pre, SSi,n g now, th ,' an ,ever,;, ' said Vilsack "Agri', MoV W<JS SIgned. III WashJng;tofl by the U.S"Secretary '. cultural deve!opinel,J.t is the !<ey to unlocking in; pf Agncillll!re, 1~m VtlsacK" .nd AGM I?fes1dent, DJ;. creased incomeS and bating poverty for millionS, iNa I, The MO\1, the release tndlcated, .111- o( people and JIlany nations_A\1d this partnership an', USDt.\:jomt effotts to pWllJ'Ote seed flOUnced today,between AGRA 3nq USPAwil1 enabl ~ d sollenhancern~nt;feQl)Ce crop " . us t(:tgelive r~ea! results for hUngry people around a)lage '\Vater resources, Improve d<\ta (oJlec' the world." ': : : : , "evelO)? farmertr<!ining B~ogramn'jes, crea~e The MOU is expectei!,tO be jl1"efIectfpr five years; rna~ket J.ofolrna,tlOn.sYstems, <\.I1ihmpr<!ve human ~~" AGRAand llspN, !'he r¢lease noted) will initiallyfocus, . d It)OMelated mfrl!stTU(tur~ InA/bea; 9fi1,qcreasmg ,f!'lpd pronuctioll)n,Afiican.breadbas' ng ~"agTlculture: l~ the surest patn to hell! ons ~ areas with high potential tiecause of ex; o~e, rtY>ac~,'e ,lerate Wl,d~r,',e,' cO,n om"l¢,~n,,~SOCi~, I " pO\ld"es, ilUr,"i\$,rru ,' c,t\lF"e an~d g, roWirig , , ' ent, boost WQmell s mlluence 'iV\thm thelf such as Ghana Kenya Mali Tanzailia and 0,

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