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Checkbiotech: Nigeria's fate in biotechnology
Posted by: DR.RAUPP E.K. (IP Logged)
Date: July 13, 2005 05:14PM

> ; ;
> The science of biotechnology is a must for any nation wishing to be self
> sufficient, July 2005 by Remmy Nweke.
> It is estimated that 15 years from now, 50 per cent of the global economy
> will be bioeconomy-based, according to the Minister of Science and
> Technology, Prof. Turner Isoun.
> Prof Isoun stated this in an address to the 8th international conference of
> the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), which held in Port Harcourt, Rivers
> State a fortnight ago.
> What this means is that in 2020, any nation which does not align itself
> economically with biotechnology, will be unsung in yet another revolution.
> Biotechnology, according to Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, is the
> manipulation of biological organisms to make products that benefit human
> beings. Thus, biotechnology contributes to such various areas as food
> production, waste disposal, mining and medicine.
> Although biotechnology has been in existence for over 5,000 years Before
> Christ (B.C.), it is known as assorted breeds of plants or animals
> hybridized in scientific parlance as 'crossed' to produce greater genetic
> variety. Then, the offspring of these crosses are selectively bred to
> produce the greatest available number of desired traits.
> According to Encarta, repeated cycles of selective breeding produced several
> present-day food staples, and have been deployed in the modern day food
> production programmes.
> Locally, this kind of technology could be described as advanced 'fertilizer'
> science programme, which is a substance that is put in the land to make
> crops grow optimally.
> However, some achievements of biotechnology include the transfer of a
> certain gene from one organism to another by way of what experts say is
> applying a set of genetic engineering techniques, known as transgenics which
> is the maintenance and growth of genetically uniformed plant and animal-cell
> cultures, called clones today.
> Also, the fusing of different types of cells to produce beneficial medical
> products such as monoclonal antibodies, Prof. Louis Levine of City College
> of New York, noted is often designed to attack a particular type of foreign
> substance.
> Generally, genes, Commonwealth Biotechnologies Incorporated (CBI) said, are
> bits of biochemical instructions found inside the cells of every organism
> from bacteria of humans. As such, Prof. Levine noted, the offsprings receive
> a mixture of genetic information from both parents.
> This information, he explained, is encoded and transmitted from generation
> to generation in Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), which is a coiled molecule
> organized into structures called chromosomes within cells. This segments
> along with the length of a DNA molecule form genes.
> Therefore, in agriculture, genetic advances enable scientists to alter a
> plant or animal to make it more useful, according to Encarta. Hence, this
> has revolutionized the way industries produce certain substances, many of
> which formerly required costly and arduous manufacturing methods.
> Historically, the modern era of biotechnology originated in 1953 when
> American biochemist, Mr. James Watson and British biophysicist, Mr. Francis
> Crick presented their double-helix model of DNA to the public.
> Seven years later, it was followed by the discovery in 1960 of special
> enzymes known as restriction enzymes in bacteria by renowned Swiss
> microbiologist, Mr. Werner Arber, and in 1973, geneticist Stanley Cohen and
> biochemist, Mr. Herbert Boyer, both Americans, removed a specific gene from
> one bacterium and inserted it into another using restriction enzymes. This
> marked the beginning of recombinant DNA technology, commonly known as
> genetic engineering.
> Prof. Levine also noted that in the 1960s, an important project used
> hybridization followed by selective breeding to increase food production and
> quality of wheat and rice crops. The American agriculturalist Norman
> Borlaug, head of the programme then, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
> 1970 in recognition of the important contribution that increased the world's
> food supply made to the case of peace.
> For Prof. Levine, biotechnology is applied in various fields such as in
> using it to create new biodegradable materials, made possible from the
> lactic acid produced during the bacterial fermentation of discarded corn
> stalks. This example indicates that when individual lactic acid molecules
> are joined chemically, they form a material that has the properties of
> plastics but is biodegradable, even as this has since spread into the mining
> industry.
> All these must have added to the import of what Prof. Isoun enthused at the
> NCS conference, where he noted that Nigeria as a nation is endowed with
> enormous bioresources across all its six main ecological zones, namely
> mangrove/swamp, rainforests, derived savannah, montane/plateau, savannah and
> semi-arid.
> He said that what matters most is how we as a nation use the new Information
> Technology (IT) domain of bioinformatics to drive the growth and development
> of modern biotechnology in the country.
> Piqued, the Bayelsa State governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, lamented
> recent technological-economic survey of the chemicals and pharmaceutical
> sector of the nation's economy by the Raw Materials Research and Development
> Council of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, which he
> described as revealing.
> According to him, out of 476 indispensable raw materials currently needed by
> the pharmaceutical industry, for instance, in the country only 16 are
> locally sourced.
> "What a pity! IT capacity building could bridge this huge gap by using data
> mining in knowledge-based economy," he asserted.
> Just last weekend, news report had it that founder of Microsoft, Mr. Bill
> Gates, announced a grant of over $400 million to Pioneer Hybrid for use in
> improving health in developing countries.
> It also stated that Pioneer is expected to spend the next two years using
> their technology to fight hunger half way around the world and will soon
> commence work on the next generation of crops to feed people in Africa,
> otherwise known as 'sorgum' which experts said looks like corn grown in
> Iowa, United States.
> According to the report, sorgum could grow anywhere including the desert
> which is known to have limited farming in parts of Africa, but the only
> problem associated with them, is that when cooked these tiny pieces of
> grain, sorgum, lose their nutritional value.
> Though scientists at Pioneer said they have the solution by way of replacing
> a gene in the sorgum that will double the nutritional value, making it
> better for the people who eat it, even after it's cooked.
> Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda were fingered as the nations where this
> experiment would soon take place, even as Pioneer scientists intend to work
> with African scientists to bring the new technology back home with them.
> For Mr. Eric Idehen, who left Nigeria over five years ago, "this kind of
> research could help lift the large majority of my country men living in
> poverty." He stressed that Nigerians have the land to farm and want to work
> but most often do not have a crop worth growing.
> Even as experts from Pioneer hope to market the first generation of the
> enhanced Sorgum within a year, thus bridging the gap between the science of
> those who have and those who need it most.
> For the immediate past president of Information Technology Industry
> Association of Nigeria (ITAN), Mr. Chris Uwaje, he aggress that
> biotechnology is important at this stage of our economic development and to
> humanity in entirety.
> "Sure Bio-Technology is very, very important to mankind essentially due to
> the global population surge that has hit 6.4billion. This challenges mankind
> to come up with accelerated techniques to establish and guarantee food
> security and enhance the life expectancy index," he asserted in exclusive
> chat with Champion Infotel.
> No matter the attendant opinion this has generated among professionals since
> it was proclaimed, the fact is that this situation seems to prevent the
> incessant shortage of food in developing nations, most of which are in
> Africa.
> So, the earlier the continent and Nigeria particularly realize this essence,
> and embrace bio-technology in all ramification, the better for the proposed
> exportation of stable food crops by the government and the plan to diversify
> cassava for the making of bread in the country, a realty.
> This has become very important, mostly if the dream to be self-sustained in
> food production and to take care of the 150 million Nigerians would
> materialize in the near future, at least, before 2020.
> []

Prof. Dr. Manfred Raupp

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