A professor of Mycology and Plant Pathology, Mr Raphael Okigbo has called for the adoption of Genetically Modified (GM) foods to combat hunger and food insecurity in Nigeria.
Okigbo made the call at the 33rd Inaugural Lecture series of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka on Monday.
In the lecture entitled: “Healthy Plants Today for Healthy Man Tomorrow,” the Botanist defined genetic modification of crops as an extension of age-long practice of cross breeding and selection to develop new varieties.
He said genetic engineering held a lot for the African continent as it stood to gain increased food production, improved environmental condition and economic sustainability.
While acknowledging the fears about scientific GM food, Okigbo argued it could be blamed on ignorance as nature itself modified crops in reaction to environmental changes.
GM foods are underutilised in Africa
“In Africa, the use of GM organisms is at its infancy. Only South Africa is the country that is commercially producing GM crops.
“Some countries that place embargo are of the opinion that developed countries plan to turn their countries to dumping ground. However, with careful modification, existing crops could possibly be able to thrive under our relatively hostile environment and also provide food for our people.
“It is my opinion that instead of sticking to our archaic system while other countries are adopting science to feed themselves, let us also embrace GM and feed our people instead of dying of hunger,” he said.
Okigbo called for preservation of plants which ‘Mother Nature’ had provided as they were primary sources of food, medicine, clothing, tools, furniture and also other home wares.
“Promotion of plant health is one of the leading principles of agriculture. Plant health is everything related to plant protection against damage caused by pest, plant diseases