NIGERIA – The continuous delay by the National Assembly in passing the National Biosafety Management Agency Bill is taking its toll on food sufficiency plan of the Federal Government as N225 billion soybean short fall could be addressed if the bill is passed and assented to by the president.
The growing use of soybean for human consumption and animal feed is creating a shortfall in the supply of the commodity in the country, and BusinessDay findings reveal that some animal feed dealers in the country are already looking at Brazil for their feed importation. Brazil is notable for using bio-technology feeds for their food production.
According to experts, agricultural biotechnology encompasses a variety of laboratory methods. These include cell, tissue and embryo culture; clonal propagation of disease-free plants, identification of chromosome regions that carry important mutagenic traits; gene identification and isolation; genetic engineering for traits such as pests and disease resistance; better adaptation to environmental stresses, greater nutritive value and post-harvest losses.
Lucy Ogbadu, director-general of National Bio-technology Development Agency has been at the forefront of leading advocacy on the passage of the bill.
However, the bill may not see the light of the day especially now the seventh Assembly is already rounding off their proceedings with electoral tension over-shadowing important bills like this.
Some African countries are already hitting markets and generating huge economic benefits for themselves as regards the Biotechnology or Genetically Modified crops (GMP).
For instance, Burkina Faso, one of the first countries in Africa to approve genetically modified crops like cotton, leaped to 57.5 percent in 2012-2013 due to the approval by its government.
Genetically modified cotton production is experiencing growth every year, said Karim Traore, the National Cotton Producers Union president.
Nigeria, on the other hand, is being constantly hampered by the delay in the passage of the bill, and this could give room for smuggling as some genetically modified crops like animal feeds made of soybean are already in supply in the country.
With insurgency on the rise in the North Eastern part of the country, and the constant delay by the National Assembly in passing the bill, Nigeria is losing economically and nutritionally.
Nigeria currently produces only 550,000 tons (25%) of its annual soybeans requirement, leaving supply gap of 1.65 million tons (75%). According to findings, some compliant countries are filling the gaps in soybean supply shortfall with genetically modified crops.
A report from by the Federal Ministry of Health says “41 percent of Nigeria children under age five suffer stunted growth as a result of malnutrition. Soybean could make up for nutritional deficiencies in children if they are readily available in the country.
A survey conducted in all the states in the North shows that there is acute malnutrition among children in all the Northern states, and noted to be as high as 80 percent of the child population.
The passage of the bill could be a saving grace for lots of Nigerian children in having access to quality food, especially now the Federal Government plans to commence school feeding to bolster brain capacity of young children. This is according to Rose Gidado of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Nigeria.