21 April 2008

Nigeria: Minister Wants African Leaders to Promote Modified Crops

Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Grace Ekpiwhre has called on African leaders to promote Genetically Modified (GM) crops to tame hunger on the continent.

Ekpiwhre told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday in Abuja that the continent's par capita food production had gradually declined over the last two decades. "Yields of staple crops fell by an average of 8 per cent on the continent compared to an increase of 27 per cent in Asia and 12 per cent in Latin America," she said.

She said that Nigeria's Ministry of Agriculture had raised alarm on the current agricultural growth rate which was grossly on the low side of 4.5 per cent par annum.

"The 4.5 per cent per annum is a mark far below the ever increasing food demands of more than 150 million people," she said.

She said that the consistent decline in food production had made it imperative for the continent to seek effective ways of fast-tracking food production processes.

"Biotechnology is one of those new ways. The potency of transgenic crop technology for increased productivity, nutrition, crop resistance to pests and drought is no more questionable," she said.

She disclosed that the ministry wanted to introduce genetically modified crops into Nigeria to support government's food security programme. Ekpiwhre stressed that the development of capabilities to generate and acquire technology for genetic modification of crops required the cooperation of stakeholders.

Director -general, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Bamidele Solomon, also said his agency was working on a modality for the domestication of GM crops.

"This is in order to increase crop harvests per unit area on farmers fields in Nigeria," he said.(NAN)

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