Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Wednesday, declared that unless innovative advances such as biotechnology are achieved in agriculture, global efforts at ending hunger would remain a mirage.
Obasanjo, who observed that the world’s population is estimated to reach about 9.7 billion by 2050, noted that more land would need to be cultivated to feed the world’s teeming population, adding “if agricultural yields stay the same, we would need to cultivate more than double the present amount of land to feed that population. That’s 82% of our total land area on earth”.
He stated this in his keynote address at the South West Sensitisation programme of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), held in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital.
He emphasized that agriculture occupies a strategic position in global efforts to address issues of hunger and diseases saying “it therefore remains one of the most potent tools for Nigeria as the government intensifies efforts to diversify the economy and enhance the wellbeing of the people”.
Obasanjo, also noted that biotechnology has the potential to increase agricultural productivity, enhance food security, develop a better health care delivery system, boost an efficient industrial development process for transforming raw materials and detoxifying hazardous wastes, reduce mortality rates, move agriculture away from a dependence on chemical inputs and help to reduce environmental problems.
He urged the government to encourage scientific incursion into agriculture via policy measures specifically designed to encourage research and development as well as the adoption of new technologies.
He further identified challenges militating against agriculture presently to include population growth, insects and pests infestation of crops, weed invasiveness, soil infertility, salinity, the impact of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and water and energy shortages.
“Deliberate efforts should be made on the part of government to encourage scientific incursion into agriculture via policy measures specifically designed to encourage research and development and the adoption of new technologies.
“This scenario heightens the critical role of innovation to make agriculture a business- more competitive and sustainable,” Obasanjo stated.
Earlier in his remark, the Overseeing Director General of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Mr. Oguntunde Abayomi, said the event was timely and pertinent, particularly at the present period that Nigeria and other African countries are adopting improved agricultural technologies for food security.
In her presentation, the Country Director of OFAB, Dr. Rose Gidado, said biotechnology has kept the promise of achieving food security across the world.
She explained that the sensitization programme was aimed at enlightening the public within the South West Zone on the benefits of biotechnology and promoting an understanding of the potentials of agricultural biotechnology and biosafety.