By Gabriel Ewepu

ABUJA- THE Acting Director General and Chief Executive Officer of National Biosafety Development Agency, NABDA, Prof Alex Akpa, has said BT Cotton will revive the nation’s moribund textile companies when commercialized.

Akpa made this known while answering questions from journalists at a ‘Special Stakeholders Meeting on Biotechnology’ organised by NABDA, in collaboration with Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology, OFAB, Nigeria, in Abuja.

He said with the interest of the agency has in food security through the use of modern biotechnology, it has resolved to deploy BT Cotton in the textile sub-sector that would lead to massive creation of jobs and boost the economy within a short time.

There were goodwill messages from some stakeholders at the meeting including National Agricultural Seed Council, NASC, African Agricultural Technology Foundation, AATF, Gene Society of Nigeria, GSN, National Agricultural Quarantine Service, NAQS, Consumer Protection Council, CPC, National Cotton Association of Nigeria, NACOTAN, and others.

He said: “We have been very much interested in food security through the use of modern biotechnology, and also we are interested in the deployment of BT Cotton because of the massive impact it will have on our economy.

“Textile industries in northern part of our country are closed down completely or gone moribund due to inadequate supply of cotton.

“So we believe that BT Cotton is one product that will save that industry and bring them back into action so that thousands of people who are not employed can go back to their jobs.”

He further stated that, “Food security is critical to us as our population is growing rapidly. The estimate is that less than five years our population would hit 200 million, and that is a huge population and we can feed that number with use of traditional means of agriculture.

“We have to adopt improved technologies and applied technology to see how possibly increase of food we produce and we will make it available to our farmers.”

In his address he also stated that the benefits of BT Cotton were enormous and beneficial to the farmers and operators in textile production, which include increase yield by 24 per cent cotton per acre through reduced pest damage and 50 per cent profit in cotton profit among smallholder farmers, increased consumption expenditures, creation of large and sustainable benefits contributing to positive economic and social development.

According to him tools of modern biotechnology such as gene editing techniques represent a major advancement in the field of biotechnology research and application.

“Decades of documented evidence demonstrate that agricultural biotechnology is a safe and beneficial technology that contributes to both environmental and economic sustainability.

“Biotechnology crops have the potential of increasing and lowering production costs. Farmers will get greater financial return while using more environmental friendly farming practices through the use of agricultural biotechnology”, he said.

Currently, field trials are on BT Cowpea, BT Maize, BT Cotton, BT Sorghum, and Salt Tolerant Rice are ongoing.

Speaking on behalf of his members, the National President, National Cotton Association of Nigeria, NACOTAN, Anibe Achimugu, said they seriously look forth to the release of BT Cotton following the little window farmers still have in this planting season of the crop, and adding that the technology will solve their problems.

“BT Cotton would assist address supply and demand of cotton in Nigeria. You can imagine the work that goes into cotton production by our small holder farmers. It is tedious and is not cheap to produce cotton.

“We have been waiting, the trial of BT Cotton has actually commenced under Institute of Agricultural Research, NABDA, but the Varietal Release Committee, were supposed to have given the approval in June 2018, which would have meant the cotton planting season.

“Although the rain started later but there is still a little window. We are encouraging them to give that approval so we can actually start the commercial production of cotton. It is high time we consider technology to improve the yields and profitability of cotton farmers”, Achimugu said.

In his welcome remarks, President of National Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium, NBBC, Prof Celetine Aguoru, disclosed that modern biotechnology has been beneficial as in solving some major issues affecting life including agriculture, medicine, environment, poverty, and economic concerns.

“National Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium, NBBC, therefore shall make sure that we keep abreast with critical issues and have opportunity of contributing to strategy development for Nigeria to benefit from this very important and beneficial science”, he stated.

However, National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, Architect Kabiru Ibrahim, who was represented by the National President of Potato Farmers Association of Nigeria, Chief Daniel Okafor, said scientists who are into research and field trials of biotechnology crops should do their job according to the rules guiding it, and also called on government to support scientists to come up with good and reliable results that would benefit farmers.

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