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Agricultural biotechnology versus food security

The daily threat posed by climate change and the growing population has strengthened the need for expert to develop research and findings to help attain food security and feed 9 Billion people by 2050.

On the 7th of February 2017, The Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) held a GMO workshop with focus on attaining food security. The event took place at the Daughters of Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRACC) Lugbe, Abuja. The Nigerian Chapter of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) organized this event in collaboration with the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CNS) and the Action Family Foundation (AFF).

The event started with an introduction of all the stakeholders in the meeting including Mr Bola Adedugbe, a representative from YPARD Nigeria who was invited by the Program Assistant at OFAB, Modesta Nnedinso Abugu. After the introduction of all the participants and dignitaries, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, Nigeria, together with other church leaders called on all the agricultural biotechnology experts to undertake research. He stressed that, given the increasing population and the trending agricultural challenges, there is need to strengthen agricultural biotechnology to end hunger and attain food security.

At the round-table discussion, all the church leaders, agri-biotech researchers, regulators, and communicators discussed on the possible ways to give a boost to agricultural biotechnology in the country and how to ensure increasing food production that is safer and factored in good nutrition.

The Director General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Lucy Ogbadu gave an overview on the global status of Genetically Modified (GM) crops. He explained that there is need to create access to this technology for farmers. At the meeting, Rev.Fr. Cardinal Onaiyekan spoke on behalf of the Catholic Church expressing the church’s position on leaving scientists to do their research He assured that the church anticipates the outcome out of the research owing to the will of God and what is good for human beings. He further said that the safe usage of the technology remains one of the church's utmost concerns as they are committed to food security and economy growth of the country.

In his contribution, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, the Director General of Nigeria National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) expressed his reassurance that the faith-based leaders and the Agency are committed and diligently carrying out their job in ensuring that GM technology is well regulated. He said the agency was created, following the ratification of Nigeria's Biosafety Management Act in 2015. This act stand in place to ensure safety application of modern biotechnology.

To strengthen the understanding of the religious based leaders and other participants, Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, who is the current Principal Investigator for the Bt Cowpea Project, made a presentation on the need to develop Bt cowpea. He said Bt cowpea is one of the key biotech crops under research in Nigeria alongside maize, cotton. The Bt Cowpea Project addresses one of the most damaging pests that poses a threat to millions of Nigerians who rely on the crop for food security.

The program ended on a high note with a group picture of the participants and exchange of pleasantries.

Photo credit: Bola Adedugbe.