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April 21, 2008

Nigerian science minister urges Africa to accept, promote GM crops

Nigerian 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 said that the continent's per 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 at 4.5 per cent par annum. "This is a mark far below the ever increasing food demands of more than 150 million people,'' Ekpiwhre 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 longer questionable,'' she said.

Ekpiwhre 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.

Leadership Nigeria

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