Professor of Plant Breeding and Biotechnology in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Professor Benjamin Ewa Ubi, has called for the adoption of crop biotechnology as a response to the current food crisis in Nigeria.
Ubi, who made the call while presenting his inaugural address titled “Agriculture Biotechnology and the Future of Nigeria’s Food Basket” recently, said millions of Nigerians go to bed hungry every day.
“Every day, millions of people (especially the most vulnerable children) go to bed hungry in this region of the world without food and nutrition; and there is a high prevalence of underweight and underweight children under the age of five,” he said.
Ubi stated that food is the first of the basic human needs, and emphasized that it is essential to sustain human life. He added that improving food production in Nigeria would remain a challenge unless modern agricultural technologies, including biotechnology, are deployed in crop production.
According to him, the conference was presented to highlight the achievements of plant breeding in trying to conquer the hunger of humans for a healthy lifestyle. He explained that the output of crop production can be increased by increasing the hectares under cultivation and intrinsic productivity can be increased by spreading improved varieties along with improved agronomic packages.
However, he pointed out that the nature of land as a fixed resource for crop production, the increasingly variable climate and different biotic and abiotic constraints, increasing intrinsic productivity alone is important to expand cropland for food and nutrition. security
“Crop growth must come to the rescue by helping to avoid the food crisis (food riots). Although crop production is not the whole story of nutrition and food security, it is an important story (half the story) and plays an important role in delivering benefits along with other components of the agricultural value chain. the growth of plants for food and food security,” he explained.
Don said: “the provision of good quality seeds (high yielding varieties) constitutes 50 percent of agricultural input; All other important agronomic packages (such as improved irrigation, fertilization, pest control, etc.) are considered cosmetic.’
He pointed out that genes cannot cause a trait to develop unless the organism with the trait is grown in a suitable environment, and on the other hand, no amount of manipulation of the external environment would produce a phenotype unless necessary. gene or genes.
“Thus, optimal crop productivity should be based on the planting of high yielding cultivars (50 percent of the story) and combined with improved agronomic packages.
“Modernizing plant breeding by harnessing the powerful new tools of biotechnology has enabled more success in plant breeding than has been achieved so far,” he added.
Ubi emphasized that new technologies should not be seen from the prism of being autonomous technologies, because they can only be based on the basis of classic technologies that seek to improve their efficiency.
He noted that most of the crops in Nigeria’s food basket, often referred to as ‘orphan crops’, were indigenous, stressing that government should be ready to look inwards and invest in research into their genetic improvement.
According to him, securing the future of Nigeria’s food basket “lies in the deployment of agricultural technology, including crop production biotechnology, to accelerate the genetic improvement and productivity of Nigeria’s crop resources.”
He provided detailed information on various aspects of crop production biotechnology, such as molecular plant breeding, including marker-assisted selection, genetic engineering, mutation breeding and genome editing, as well as rapid plant tissue culture and growth, an essential part of the breeder’s toolbox. as an expansion. For improving the food basket of Nigeria while showcasing his professional and academic contributions.
Ubi said that not all biotechnologies involve the creation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs); in fact, approaches to tissue culture and various aspects of genome editing and molecular breeding do not involve the creation of transgenics (transgenics), which in themselves are an invaluable contribution to agricultural development but require the approval of biosafety regulations.
Citing the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Ubi stated that food security exists “when all people, at all times, have sufficient physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, their dietary needs and nutritional preferences to lead an active and healthy life to be.”
He also stated that urgent steps must be taken to address the current level of hunger in the country.
Part of the challenge is the increasing frequency and intensity of conflicts (especially the globalized Ukraine-Russia war), climate change and the resulting extremes (especially precipitation, heat and emerging harmful biotic factors), economic slowdowns and recessions (the challenges were further exacerbated ). of the recent COVID-19 pandemic) – largely fueling hunger and malnutrition.
Ubi said the Russian-Ukrainian war has shown the volatility of global food supply shocks and the huge negative impact on food and nutrition security in Africa, which relies on Russia and Ukraine for imports of wheat, fertilizers or vegetable oils.
“Nigeria must take the sovereignty of the wombs of its citizens so that this human right is not endangered at the altar of external volatilities,” said Ubi.