NIGERIA-National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) in Nigeria has been given approval by the Federal Government to produce 100 million diseases-resistant yam seedlings to be distributed to the farmers in the country.

Acting Director-General, NABDA, Prof. Alex Akpa, noted that the production of such high yielding yam seedlings was part of his agency’s intervention towards achieving the government food security objectives.

This following its recent approval of release of Bt cowpea and commercialization of Bt cotton.

Cowpea is the first GM food crop to be approved for open cultivation in Nigeria and West Africa as a whole. Burkina Faso previously approved and planted Bt cotton, which is not a food crop.

Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified organism were opening new avenue for the country’s agriculture and food security drive.

The minister noted that agricultural biotechnology would assist Nigeria in stopping the importation of basic food. He also added that the country had already achieved success with the newly developed and approved Bt cotton varieties.

According to him, “Genetically modified organism has a very important role to play in the search of our great nation to be in a position to ensure that we can feed all our citizens and start the process of producing many of the things that we now import from outside.”

Onu said, “There are so many areas that require interventions, you have to start with the seeds, we want to make sure that the seeds used in the country are high-yielding and they are disease resistant.’’

According to scientific researchers the new and emerging plant breeding technologies such has gene editing have been viewed as a possible intervention to significantly contribute to food security and sustainable development.

This is especially in the wake of serious environmental problems that have resulted due to prolonged use of agro-chemicals subsequently reducing the productivity of soils and hence implicating food security.

Across Africa, GM crops are commercially grown in only two countries: South Africa and Sudan. More than a dozen other nations are currently undertaking trials on about eight GM crops, including banana, cassava and maize, in preparation for their introduction into the food supply. 

Cumbersome regulatory procedures and the work of anti-GMO civil society groups have for several years stalled progress in a lot of countries but it’s now clear the barriers are breaking.