BY CHIBUZOR EMEJOR,
The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology [OFAB] in Africa, Nigeria Chapter has said the recent release and subsequent commercialisation of Biotechnology [Bt] cotton would create over 25,000 jobs in Nigeria both in the textile industry and along cotton value chain.
Dr. Rose Gidado, Country Coordinator, OFAB Nigeria, who stated this in Abuja, said the release of the two varieties of Bt cotton by developed by the Institute of Agricultural Research(IAR), Zaria in Collaboration with Bayer/Mahyco Nigeria Ltd and the National Biotechnology Development Agency(NABDA) would resuscitate and revolutionise the Textile industry as well as improve the living conditions of cotton farmers in the country.
It would be recalled that two varieties of Bt Cotton: MRC7377 BGII and MRC7361 BGII was recently named, released and officially registered by the National Varietal Release Committee(NVRC) on the 27th of July 2018 at its 26th meeting at the National Center for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology(NACGRAB) Ibadan, which is the Secretariat of NVRC.
The Chairman of the Committee, Chief Awoyemi remarked on the occasion that the release and registration of Genetically Modified [GM] cotton was revolutionary to the agricultural development of the country as it would lead to the future adoption of the GM technology in food crops.
In her submission, OFAB Country Coordinator, Dr. Rose Gidado, said “This is a very big and important milestone in the history of modern biotechnology practice in Nigeria.
“This will help revamp the textile industry by overcoming the most devastating pest (Bollworm) in cotton production.”
Speaking further on the benefits of Bt cotton, Gidado explained that the cotton has been developed to resist insects and pests infestation, noting that a breakthrough has been made following the release of the cotton seed, as the cotton is efficacious against the pink bollworm and all insects of the lepidopteran family and proven safe for human use.
On the issue of safety of the gene, Dr. Gidado buttressed that in countries that cultivate Bt. cotton and GE crops, no adverse, toxic or any allergic effects of Bt. cotton on human or animal health have been reported.
“The Bt. “Cry proteins” require certain specific conditions to be activated, for example, it has to be ingested into the gut of the organism, no contact effects.
“When ingested into the gut of humans, the Bt. Cry proteins cannot be activated because the human gut is acidic and lacks the specific receptors for the Bt. toxins to bind and initiate the structural and physiological changes that lead to death in insects.
She also noted that the use of Bt cotton would reduce the cost of farming as well as the use of farm inputs such as pesticide and other chemicals in the farm.
As part of efforts to ensure wider use and acceptability of Bt Cotton in Nigeria, Gidado said 1,000 farmers would be trained during the planting season next year, adding that cotton seeds are currently being multiplied by breeders for certification and availability to farmers.
She further revealed that critical stakeholders in the promotion of Bt cotton would step up awareness creation and sensitisation to get the buy-in of all and sundry across the country.
“We need to do all inclusive awareness strategy. But these are dependent on availability of resources or funding.
“We are not leaving any stone unturned. We are engaging in one on one campaign, radio and television programmes, use of jingles, town hall meetings, meeting with traditional rulers in the villages and engagement with the media,” she explained.
Gidado recalled with nostalgia that in the 1960’s and 1970’s when Nigeria’s textile industry was booming and thriving as a result of the availability of cotton and other raw materials, adding that textile industry was then the second largest employer of labour in the country.
To this end, she expressed optimism that with the release and cultivation of Bt Cotton by farmers and the political will on the part of government, the textile industry would soon bounce back.
The Country Coordinator pointed out that countries such as Brazil, China and Egypt have done remarkably well in their textile industries as a result of the use of Bt cotton, adding that Nigeria needs to borrow a leaf from these countries in her quest to diversify the economy.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, has pledged the commitment of his administration to revive the ‘good old days’ when the cotton and textile industry employed hundreds of thousands of Nigerians.
Receiving the CEO of Vlisco Group, David Suddens, at the Presidential Villa recently, President Buhari welcomed the proposed investment of $200 million by the company in Nigeria, which will, in turn, create 700,000 jobs.
”I am very much aware of your company’s effort especially your investments in the textile industry, and it is one area that we are trying to develop because it will create employment and boost agriculture.
”To get cotton to grow again in the country is like going back to the good old days when the textile industry used to employ more than hundreds of thousands of people.
”I am very excited about the prospects of reviving the industry because it will keep farmers busy, create employment which brings more security, help the economy, transfer of technology and of course we have a large market to absorb the products,” the President said.
President Buhari reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to forging a stronger economic partnership with the Netherlands, assuring the Dutch investor that the Nigerian authorities will continue to do the utmost to keep smugglers at bay at borders.
In his remarks, Suddens told the President that the 172-year-old company plans to use cotton grown in Nigeria for production.
”I want a new strategy that brings Vlisco manufacturing to Nigeria. I want to change the supply chain from Asia to Nigeria.
”For the total supply chain for cotton, textile and garment industry from weaving, spinning, printing to retail, we want to use Nigeria cotton and we have already started to encourage the creative industries in the country to find a voice and give them a platform across the world.
”I am convinced that it is time for the textile industry to move from Asia to Africa, ” he said.
Also speaking, the Dutch Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Robert Petri told President Buhari that the company’s visit was a follow-up to his successful visit to the Netherlands in July, during which he met with Chief Executive Officers of Dutch companies.
”Also during that visit, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between our two countries seeking more intensified cooperation. After that visit, there were more successive visits by top Dutch officials to Nigeria.
”This shows that we are seriously committed to furthering our collaboration,” Petri said.