Nigeria has called on other ECOWAS countries to ensure the adoption of modern biotechnology practice in talking food insecurity and other challenges comforting the region.
Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, Surveyor Suleiman Hassan Zarma, gave the charge on Tuesday in Abuja at the meeting of Experts of Biosafety for the Validation of the Preliminary Draft Regulations on Biosafety in West Africa.
“Safe modern biotechnology has proved to be that solution which will ensure that our people – farmers , entrepreneurs , and the economy succeed within the region,” he said.
He said the importance of science and technology cannot be overemphasised in combating food insecurity and climate change in West Africa.
According to him, you will agree with me that some challenges facing Africa and the developing world need more urgent attention than others.
“In west African region , these challenges include food security, social insecurity, climate change and economic instability among others. The impacts of these challenges are beyond dispute and the facts are clear hunger, malnutrition , wasting , stunting , flood, destitution, terrorism increase in crime and a whole lot of others,” he said.
The minister said if “these situations are not urgently addressed , they will continue to weaken our economies and threaten our regional security and survival.”
He said African leaders saw great wisdom in harnessing the enormous potential of modern biotechnology to transform the agricultural landscape and improved economy in Africa.
“It is my believe that your being here, means that you agree that science and technology are major drivers of change, in addressing most of our challenges and in particular, modern biotechnology, which has the ability to unlock Africa’s potential,” he said.
“This is by enhancing green economy, agricultural productivity, sustenance of biodiversity and economic growth, if well regulated.
“We all understand that agricultural growth and sustainable environment have been and will remain key to improving livelihoods in Africa. However, these sectors have been constrained by the multiplicity of challenges requiring multi-pronged innovative solutions,” Zarma said.
According to him, Nigeria in her commitment to the protocol which she signed and ratified in 2000 and 2003 respectively has remained resolute in the regulation of modern biotechnology practices and products.
“This clearly reflected in the government of Nigeria’s true obligation in investing strongly in the biosafety sector,” he said.
The minister noted that the Nigerian agency known as National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has over 220 well trained biosafety officers and still growing with great impact in Africa’s biosafety sector.
“Therefore, Nigeria greatly recognises the need for a regional biosafety system and appreciates this meeting which is aimed at ensuring that cross border trade on living modified organisms and their products thereof within the sub- region are harmonised, improved and most importantly safe to human health and the environment,” he said.
ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture and Water Resources, Sekou Sangare, told journalists that the implementation would improve institutional, technical and human capacities in member state
He noted that biotechnology might have negative impact for humans and biodiversity, stressing that the draft regulation is looking at identifying the impact and how to use it safely to avoid the negative impacts.
“This will boost agriculture, animal production and we will also have good seeds and all these will help to fight hunger,” he said.
The General Secretary, West Africa Civil Society Forum, Komlan Messie, sad the civil society participated in the meeting to make sure the concerns of the citizens were taken into account.