Prof. Olawole Obembe, who is a professor of Biotechnology at Covenant University expressed his notion about the available opportunities that plant biotechnology has in the offing for both Africa and the world, as it could help suppress the constraints of increasing demands for food, feeds and fibre production, including the need for well-being and healthy living.
The professor said this while giving a speech recently at the university’s 19th inaugural lecture, as he delivered a lecture on the theme of the programme ‘Subdue and Dominate the Earth: Plant Biotechnology for Sustainable Development,’ as he spoke on the importance of plant biotechnology, stating that it would ensure more efficient use of inadequate resources around the globe and also contribute to sustainable development.
Backing up his speech with needed statistics, Obembe further spoke about the projected world population predicted to increase from the present 7.6 to 9.7 billion by the year 2050 and an estimated 50% of the growth to be contributed by Africa, with Nigeria being the most populous African country. The prediction had been made to over double the present 191 million people to 411 million.
He also stated that the development had its effect not just on the overall quality of living, but also on the socio-economic development.
“Rapid population growth and over-population lead to poverty, low standard of living, ill-health, malnutrition and environmental degradation, high rate of unemployment and high rate of crime,” said Obembe.
Maintaining that plants were vital to the existence of life on the earth and in situations whereby population growth was overlapping food production, Obembe stressed that agriculture is crucial to the economies and environments of the entirety of the universe.
“Modern agriculture must meet the demands of the ever-increasing population and the expectations of improved living standards, in the presence of frightening harmful consequences of diminishing arable land and environmental pollution,” he added.
Stressing further, Professor Obembe listed five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that directly addressed the three capabilities for human development in Africa, and Nigeria in particular as Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being; Quality Education; and Decent Work& Economic Growth. He backed up his notion with the point that plant biotechnology could help to acquire SDGs through the use of high-yielding genetically modified (GM) crop varieties that were resistant to pests and diseases, weeds and adverse environmental conditions such as drought.
He further asserted that the development and adoption of plant biotechnologies and products in African countries, including Nigeria, would go a long way in contributing to the achievement of the five SDGs under consideration.
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He pointed out the need for curriculum development, starting from the secondary school level, as manpower development for biotechnology, should be based on long term training rather than through seminars and workshops.
According to the inaugural lecturer, the modest recommendation in achieving improved plant biotechnology development and adoption in Africa would be in the area of awareness campaigns about the new technologies, particularly as it concerns the potential benefits and public fear over its safety.