Scientists have drummed support for modern agricultural biotechnology, saying Nigeria cannot feed its growing population with the current conventional method of farming.
Speaking exclusively to our correspondent during a stakeholder’s workshop with the theme, “Shaping the future of researchers in developing countries” organized by the Nigeria Academy of Science (NAS) and the International Council for Science (ICS) in Abuja, NAS president, Prof. Mosto Onuoha, said the current method of farming would not sustain the nation and Its people in years to come.
He argued that modern agricultural biotechnology held the key to the nation’s food security in future, saying it had the ability to help the nation grow better seeds which are resistant to pest and diseases, and combat bad effects of climate change by reducing the use of pesticides.
Such seeds, according to him, will help farmers get good yield which can guarantee food security for the nation in future.
He said: “Feeding our people in the next generation cannot be done the way we’re doing now. Science has the ability, the right seeds even to combat the bad effects of climate change, the adaptation is science that will be used. If the rivers are drying up it is science that will provide the solution in the types of crops that will help fight the seasonal changes and so on. We have to prepare for that and the population is increasing and we have to be thinking ahead, that’s the area that we’re lacking.”
He urged governments at all levels to invest in future by looking at long-term plans that would guarantee the nation’s food security.
Similarly, the past president of NAS, Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, noted that Nigeria is not growing enough to feed her population currently and said biotechnology, however, held the potential to help the nation grow enough food to feed its population today and in the future.
“Of course, you see right now what we have in our food baskets may be enough if the lands are properly harnessed but as the population grows this is going to get inadequate. So, we need biotechnology to produce more safe foods for our people,” he pointed out.
Earlier in his presentation entitled “Responsibility in science everywhere”, the chairman of the committee on freedom and responsibility in the conduct of science at the ICS, Leiv Sydnes, noted that science has a tremendous value in its own right and that the value and importance of research for the human society is undisputable.
Leiv, a professor of chemistry at the University of Bergen, Norway, said ISC would act as the global voice of science to speak for the value of science and the need for informed understanding and decision-making; and stimulate and support international scientific research on major issues of global concern, pointing out that the consequence of their mission is to improve the environment for research where needed; to enable the use of science-based soultions of societal problems; to advocate freedom of movement for scientists all over the world; and to increased awareness to (hidden) threats to research integrity.
Speaking on the principle of universality of science, Leiv said: “The free and responsible practice of science is fundamental to scientific advancement and human and environmental well-being. Such practice, in all its aspects, requires freedom of movement, association, expression and communication for scientists, as well as equitable access to data, information, and other resources for research. It requires responsibility at all levels to carry out and communicate scientific work with integrity, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, and transparency, recognising its benefits and possible harms.”
He said despite the global controversy surrounding biotechnology, Nigeria would derive a lot of benefits from biotechnology in areas such as improved seeds and yields.
“Nigeria as well as most other countries will benefit from progress in research in that regard. If you’ll be able to be self-sufficient I don’t know because I don’t know enough about your country to tell that but there are definitely challenges that are going to be solved regarding both improved crops and quality of the crops and prevent crops from being destroyed and this is of course in some aspects a delicate issue because you have genetically modified crops that are sort of controversial in many countries,” he stated.
He underscored the role of scientists in bridging the information divide by educating the public on the immense potentials available for the nation in biotechnology, stressing there could be no major breakthrough until the public was carried along.
“So, what we’re saying is that it is possible to make progress but the public is reluctant and that’s why I am emphasizing very much the importance of communicating very well with the public because scientists can’t be far ahead of the public because we are going to serve the public and the main task for us is really to get scientific competence so we can solve urgent and future problems and also avoid future problems doing the best we can,” he added.