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Nigeria is set for Genome Editing Technology

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Genetic engineering will be utilised to enhance the country's food productivity.

Nigeria is now qualified to be enlisted among nations increasing food production through genetic engineering (GE). Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director-General of Nigeria’s National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), has explained that the country is now biosafety law compliant and thus able to implement genome editing technology. 2015 saw the official legislation of the Biosafety Bill. The laws are in place to control the negative consequences of modern biotechnology on biodiversity conservation and sustainable usage by regulating its practice, management, and use of its derivatives, including genetically modified organisms.

Prof. Mustapha made these remarks to the media in Abuja, asserting that they would lead to greater agricultural output in Nigeria. He mentioned how genome editing was a scientific breakthrough that aided precision agriculture by allowing for the targeted correction of a crop’s genetic handicap, thereby allowing the crop to achieve its full potential in terms of yields. He went over some of the advantages of this new technology, including shorter intervals between planting and harvesting, less reliance on harmful pesticides, and protection from climate change.

Factors militating crop growth will be tackled.

Elaborating on the initiative, he explained that the technique does not pose a risk to the crop and does not cause any damage to it. Furthermore, it merely restores what was involved in the crop’s stunted growth due to the damage done to its DNA. In addition, he stated that for Nigeria to achieve its goals in the field of targeted research, the country has enacted legislation that would guarantee the usage of genome editing.

Furthermore, he gave insight on how its application in agriculture helps combat all the diseases that plague crops across the country, including the food and industrial raw materials commodities that are of particular interest. After this is finished, the country will benefit greatly in terms of food production and the availability of agricultural raw materials for expanding the industrial sector. As a result, the country’s expanding youth population would have access to more job possibilities, leading to more economic growth.

Massive food and raw materials production goals will be achieved.

He emphasized that providing food security for all Nigerians was a top priority for the country’s agricultural sector and that the country’s industries were providing an abundant supply of raw materials to the agricultural sector. So, this technology will aid in the production of the massive quantities of crops required to meet the needs of these two sectors. He stated that the invention had originated at the Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) of the African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD).

The Centre’s primary goal was to increase agricultural output in Africa through the application of cutting-edge technology. He also mentioned that about seven other African nations, including Nigeria, were participating in the AUDA-NEPAD initiative, where they would work together to make the plan a reality at a specific period. He said the AUDA-NEPAD team, led by NABDA, the host and guardian of the technology, recently visited the Ministers of STI, Agriculture, and Rural Development to enquire about their cooperation.

Documents and guidelines for its implementation will be made available.

Lastly, both ministers have assured to educate the presidency on the potential of using the technology to expedite development because Prof. Mustapha has described the AUDA-NEPAD’s genome editing program as a policy problem. Therefore, documents and guidelines for implementing this technology across the African continent are now in the planning stages. He went on to say that the inspiration for the development of genome editing technologies stemmed from the desire to see Africa become self-sufficient in agricultural output.

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