FNS 2019: University Don advocates for locally-funded research, biotechnology

Mazino Dickson, Abuja

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The Nigerian government has been advised to channel more funds, logistics and other resources towards advancing research and innovation in Agriculture – especially through the adoption of biotechnology.

Angela Eni, a senior lecturer of Covenant University, Ota, gave this position at the second day of the Feed Nigeria Summit 2019 conference held in Abuja.

Eni said modern agriculture was driven by serious research activities – leading to unusual breakthroughs, increased crop yield and production, as well as more investment from the private sector.

She said due to the low funding of local research, Nigerian agricultural scientists are forced to seek support from abroad.

The fact that we are deficient in funding means that sometimes there will be researchers whose loyalties would be with their funders. So even if they may be asked to introduce things that they (the funders) are not sure of the final outcome; the local support is simply not enough,” she said.

Limitations

Eni – who is the team leader of the West Africa Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) project for Covenant University under the sponsorship of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation – said despite the presence of strong institutions vested with the responsibility of regulation, focus must be concentrated on not just the biosafety of new seedling but of the larger biodiversity.

If you engineer a gene that boosts productivity into a crop, there is a limitation to the precision of biotechnology. For instance, if I insert a gene into a cassava crop and it moves to other crops within the environment, it means those crops are susceptible to the vagaries of biotech limitations and that could mean they will all be wiped out.”

She therefore solicited for thorough clinical checks to be conducted before deploying biotechnology in crop production.