Expert advises farmers to adopt gene drive-based pest control technology

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By Sylvester Thompson

Abuja, Nov.9, 2020 Dr Rose Gidado, County Coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology(OFAB), has advised farmers to adopt the gene drive-based pest control technology.

Gidado, also Deputy Director, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), said the adoption would significantly help to restore Nigeria’s food crop industry.

Gidado spoke on Monday in Abuja in an interview with the news Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Gene drive is a genetic engineering technology that propagates a particular suite of genes throughout a population by altering the probability that a specific allele will be transmitted to offspring from the natural 50% probability.

She noted that in agriculture, gene drive was recently applied to control invasive species or eliminate herbicide and pesticide resistance.

According to her, Nigerian agricultural system is dominated by the application of synthetic pesticides which have resulted in environmental pollution.

Gidado said that it had contributed greatly to climate change, with lethal consequences like increased pest attack, decreased crop yield and extreme heat stress in plants.

The scientist said the application of gene drive in Nigeria’s agricultural system, would help greatly in the control of deadly insect pests which cause damages to crops and reduction in food production.

She further explained that various conventional insect pest control and population suppression measures such as the physical, agronomic, biological and agro‐ecological methods were limited in genetic control strategies.

She added that these genetic control strategies were what directly manipulate the genomes of pest species to reduce their fitness, saying that the application of CRISPR–Cas9 gene drive to weed control have been validated very useful and efficient.

CRISPR-Cas9 according to her, is currently the simplest, most versatile and precise method of genetic manipulation.

“ Population suppression of weed species using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive is based on the introduction and spread of fitness load that can limit the dispersal and abundance of weed populations,’’ she said.

Gidado said devastating plant sucking insects in Nigerian farms have also been known to reduce the crop yield of Nigerian farmers by more than 50 per cent.

She stressed that insect pests’ population suppression using Cas9-mediated gene drive technology could provide a cost-effective, accurate and simple method for control.

“Several studies have shown that the Cas9-mediated gene drive technology is cheaper and will be easily affordable by the Nigerian scientists to explore’’, she said.

The OFAB coordinator further said that the application of the gene drive technologies have many more controls over several devastating insects in Nigeria.

She said considering the situation, it would be very necessary to adopt it in order to rescue Nigeria’s ailing food crop industry from the attack of destructive insect pest of crops.

Gidado pointed out that the gene drive‐based pest control strategy is attracting great interest from farmers all over the world and should receive more attention from the Nigerian policymakers and the public.

“There is a compelling need for Nigerian farmers to adopt gene-drive-technology seeds and food crops in order to achieve food security that will translate to national development,’’ Gidado said

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