• Tech - News
  • Updated: March 28, 2023

Agency Says Nigeria Ready For Genome Editing Technology

Nigeria is prepared for genome editing technology, according to Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), because there are biosafety regulations in place.

Nigeria officially signed the Biosafety Bill into law in 2015, making it eligible to join the League of Nations already using genetic engineering (GE) to boost food production.

The law is to regulate the practice of modern biotechnology, handling and use of its products (genetically modified organisms) that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Genome Editing Technology

In an interview with the NAN on Monday in Abuja, Mustapha claimed that this would increase the nation's agricultural productivity.

He said genome editing technology was a scientific advance that assists in precision agriculture, where genetic impairment of a crop was identified and rectified, enabling the crop to actualise its ideal production.

He listed the many advantages of the technique, including a shorter time between planting and harvesting, the ability to mitigate climate change and the need for fewer pesticide applications.

According to the D-G, the technology neither threatens nor harms the crop and only corrects the DNA damage that caused the crop's stunted growth.

Mustapha said that as a target-specific science, Nigeria has put in place regulations that would ensure the use of genome editing in the country.

“When used in agriculture, all the diseases bedevilling crops in the country, most especially crops of interest used as food and industrial raw materials are the ones being targeted.

“When this has been achieved, the country is going to gain quite a lot in terms of food supply and agricultural raw materials for industrial development.

“With that, there would be wealth creation as employment opportunities shall be available for our teeming population of youths,’’ the NABDA boss said.

He stressed that Nigeria’s agricultural focus was to be self-sufficient with enough food for all, with an ample supply of industrial raw materials by industries to agricultural companies in the country.

“So, this technology is going to help in the area of providing the huge amount of crops that are going to be sufficient for these two purposes,’’ Mustapha said.

He stated that the technology was a project of the Center of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Innovation of the African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa's Development (AUDA-NEPAD).

He said the mission of the Centre was to make use of modern technology to foster development across the African continent with a focus on agricultural productivity.

According to Mustapha, the AUDA-NEPAD initiative involved about seven specifically chosen African nations, including Nigeria, and would be realised through collaboration within a predetermined time frame.

He said this collaboration would enable an exchange of ideas and strengths in order to stimulate scientific growth and bring the political will to bear on facilitating STIs through the use of genome editing technology.

He explained that on the recent visit of the AUDA-NEPAD team, led by NABDA, the host agency and custodian of the technology, they had visited the Ministers of STI, Agriculture and Rural Development to solicit support.

Mustapha said the genome editing initiative of the AUDA-NEPAD was a policy issue, and both ministers had pledged to enlighten the presidency on the prospects of using the technology to fast-track development.

“Presently, policy and working documents are being drafted for the technology to be applied on the African continent,’’ he said.

The NABDA D-G stated that on the AUDA-NEPAD team’s return to Nigeria, part of their consortium will see how some of the laboratories would be updated in order to achieve the purpose.

“The goal of Africa that can feed itself in terms of agricultural produce is why the genome editing technology was conceived and why they came here,’’ Mustapha said.

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Lawrence Agbo
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