By Etta Michael Bisong
Stakeholders constituting scientists, journalists, public and private sector representatives have called on the Federal Government to consider adoption of safe Biotechnology as alternative to safeguard Nigeria’s economy from impacts of the dwindling global oil price.
To demonstrate support and help increase public acceptance of this technology, the group has embarked on the development of an inclusive plan to promote awareness and encourage public acceptance of biotechnology development across the country.
Co-coordinator of the team, Orem Albert Echua, said experiences from countries that have adopted biotechnology practices reveal general pattern of consistent and progressive transformation in the socio-economic livelihoods of their citizens.
Echua, who made the statement during an interactive meeting organised by Journalists for Social Development Initiative (JSDI) in Abuja to strategise on a Public Communication Plan (PCP) that will foster Biosafety Regulations as well as Biotechnology development in Nigeria, noted that the application of safe biotechnology in agriculture has proven remarkable growth in farmers yield, income, and contributed in reducing issues like nutrition and food insufficiency crises bedevilling the country.
“For Nigeria, over 70 million farmers are estimated to benefit if safe biotechnology is effectively deployed to support agriculture, and additional 25, 000 jobs projected to be created annually,” he said.
The committee helmsman acknowledged various milestones and breakthroughs among scientists in their quest to promote biotechnology development in Nigeria, but urged government and other stakeholders to extend the concept of biotechnology beyond laboratory to the public so as to ensure the required knowledge and inspire public acceptance.
Head of Plant Sciences Department, University of Abuja, Prof. Polycarp Anyaegbu, while remarking at the event describe communication as key element to drive advancement in crop biotechnology development.
The lack of effective communication, according to him, may jeopardise projects in the public sector that respond to specific local demands and destined for national markets.
“Knowledge sharing initiatives allow policy-makers and key stakeholders to make informed decisions for enhancing the acceptance and use of the technology particularly in developing countries” he said.
Many challenges including capacity for media to report biotechnology, funding and lack of adequate science based information were identified as some of the problems affecting public understanding and acceptance of biotechnology in Nigeria. In this scenario, the committee submitted that it is important that adequate, science-based information is made available to various stakeholders to help them analyse issues, correct misinformation, and make early and informed decisions.