FG Advised to Tap Into Biotechnology for Sustainable Food Production, Employment Generation

As humanity commemorates this year’s World Environment Day (WED), the Federal Government has been urged to tap into the benefits of biotechnology, which every developed country has used to ensure sustainable food production, among others. 

This technology is different from the controversial Genetically Modified Organisms/foods (GMO) and it is being championed by Biocrops Biotechnology Limited, a leading commercial tissue culture company in Nigeria, Bennett Oghifo reports

Biotechnology is the use of biological processes, organisms, or systems to manufacture products intended to improve the quality of human life.

 The earliest biotechnologists were farmers who developed improved species of plants and animals by cross pollenisation or cross breeding. 

This process is different from genetically modified foods (or GM foods), which are from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering.

 These techniques allow for the introduction of new traits as well as greater control over traits than previous methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding. 

Commercial sale of genetically modified foods began in 1994, when Calgene first marketed its Flavr Savr delayed-ripening tomato. Most food modifications have primarily focused on cash crops in high demand by farmers such as soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. 

These have been engineered for resistance to pathogens and herbicides and for better nutrient profiles. GM livestock have been developed, although as of November 2013 none were on the market.

On the other hand, biotechnology has, in recent years, expanded in sophistication, scope, and applicability. 

The science of biotechnology can be broken down into subdisciplines called red, white, green, and blue. 

Red biotechnology involves medical processes such as getting organisms to produce new drugs, or using stem cells to regenerate damaged human tissues and perhaps re-grow entire organs. White (also called gray) biotechnology involves industrial processes such as the production of new chemicals or the development of new fuels for vehicles. 

Green biotechnology applies to agriculture and involves such processes as the development of pest-resistant grains or the accelerated evolution of disease-resistant animals. Blue biotechnology, rarely mentioned, encompasses processes in marine and aquatic environments, such as controlling the proliferation of noxious water-borne organisms.

 Biotechnology, like other advanced technologies, has the potential for misuse. Concern about this has led to efforts by some groups to enact legislation restricting or banning certain processes or programmes, such as human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research. There is also concern that if biotechnological processes are used by groups with nefarious intent, the end result could be deleterious to mankind.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of Biocrops Biotechnology Limited, Dr. Joseph Olugbenga Tola Odusanya “With the appropriately trained technical and vocational education training (TVET) specialists manning our most critical sectors of agriculture, Nigeria can use biotechnology to the best advantage, providing the world with better quality food and produce, ramping-up its industrial production of agro-allied products, managing its waste by converting them into useful items and finally becoming a credit worthy nation.

“The low-hanging fruit technologies associated with Biotechnology are sufficient and necessary for the nation to be self-sufficient and finally to generate income from its investments. 

Biotechnology is one of the tools needed to diversify the Nigerian economy. True Biotechnology is what Biocrops is promoting.”

Biotechnology has provided the tools for job creation and at the same time, improve our productivity and income, he said. 

“Every university of Agriculture, every department of agriculture, every institution of higher learning, should have a minimum of the replica of facilities that we have at Biocrops for seedlings production as part of its training tools. 

The students must be prepared for the next vista of agriculture – commercial scale, industry-ready agriculture. 

This is only applicable by using non-offensive biotechnologies, such as Biocrops have domesticated. The real job numbers come from technical and vocational education training (TVET). “Up to 70 per cent of the skill needs of agriculture could be met by focusing on producing the right calibre of workers.

 The cost of providing these skills are much lower than the higher education needs of agriculture. Biocrops continuously opens up its facilities for training and research in Agriculture.”

Biocrops Biotechnology Limited, he said currently has capacity to produce four million plantlets per annum at its Utako, Abuja biofactory.
 He said, “It is a customer focused company that does not engage in multiplication of Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs). Biocrops is seriously engaged in training the next generation of modern farmers and agriculturists, assuring that its technologies could make significant impact in employment generation and food productivity within the Nigerian economy.” Biocrops technologies, he said were already being sought after by industry, and this trend is bound to grow.
 “For example, Flour Mills Nigeria Limited through its Sunti farms is sourcing sugarcane planting materials from Biocrops, among the commercially available sugarcane ascensions locally available. Biocrops is providing the bridge between agriculture and industry.” 

Odusanya, a registered International Psychologist, erudite scholar and technocrat was until recently General Manager and Head, Human Capital Management, Keystone Bank Ltd, Lagos. He was also the General Manager-Africa at HayGroup, South Africa, and Senior Regional Consultant at DDI Asia Pacific International Ltd, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Dr. Odusanya also serves as visiting professor to University of Malaysia, Charles Sturt University in Australia, HELP University College in Kuala Lumpur and was recently appointed by the School of Business Leadership at the University of South Africa to supervise doctoral students.
 He continues to collaborate with researchers around the world in his field and engage in a wide range of International and multi-country studies that continue to challenge the frontiers of research collaboration. 
His biography has been listed in the Marquis who is who in the world since 2002.

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