Food Security: Biotechnologists Applaud Berry for Setting-up Nigeria’s First World Class Tissue Culture Lab

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The President, Biotechnology Society of Nigeria (BSN), Prof. Benjamin Ubi, has commended the Chairman and Founder of Contec Global Agro Limited (CGAL), Dr. Benoy Berry, for his bold move in establishing Nigeria’s first State-of-the-Art Tissue Culture Lab in Maitama-Abuja, Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

For being an advocate of Nigeria’s food security drive through organic farming, BSN, said it unanimously picked Dr. Berry and the Governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ben Ayade as its 2021 winners of its Achiever’s award.

The award is being bestowed on the duo because of their strides and contributions to Nigeria’s food security. The award is slated for March 29th, 2021 at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State, South-east Nigeria.

Prof. Ubi, who made the disclosure while leading other members of the Society on a courtesy visit to CGAL tissue culture lab facilities, said Dr. Berry’s investment in Nigeria’s agro sector through organic farming is apt because Africa and Nigeria are in dire need of biotechnology application to boost its agricultural productivity. The President of BSN was received at the facility complex in Maitama, Abuja, by the Managing Director of the company, Mr. Thomas Chackunkal.

While commending Dr. Berry’s initiative, he said unrest from food insecurity can be deadlier than any civil unrest in any country, adding that CGAL’s effort in addressing Nigeria’s present food insecurity is a step in the right direction.

On why BSN has deemed it fit to honour Dr. Berry, he said: “The great contributions of CGAL, in fostering Science Technology and Innovation (STI) in Nigeria has been very well recognized by everyone and that is why for the 2020 and 2021 award, the society picked the Founder and Chairman of the Company, Dr. Benoy Berry and the Governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ben Ayade as the recipients of achievers’ awards in Nigeria’s agricultural space.”

He said, the Nigerian chapter of Biotechnology Society has affiliation with the Biotechnology Resource Society of India (BRSI) and that of France, which is presently being coordinated by Prof. Ashok Pandi, stressing that BSN has highly recognised Dr. Berry’s contributions to the development of agricultural biotechnology and scientific innovation in Nigeria.

“You have achieved what seems to be impossible in Nigeria because apart from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Oyo State, that has biotechnology laboratory, you can hardly find biotechnology labs in a greater number of our national institutes and in some Nigerian Universities.

“On our own we tried to create bio lab in my University and as you all know contamination can be the most common problem in all of them and even in Ghana where they tried and at the National Root Crops all manners of problems emerged and because of lack of power contamination came in and everything was lost and you have been able to maintain that and we therefore feel very happy about that.” Prof. Ubi, said.

While applauding Dr. Berry, he added, you have been able to maintain this lab by upscaling it into a world class commercial tissue culture lab which is the first of its kind in Nigeria and we are very proud of this development.

He said: “In 2018, at the University of Jos, when we went for a conference and some organizations claimed that they have a tissue culture lab. We went on inspection and found out that there was nothing on the ground.

“They may just use that in order to get government funding to say they have but if you go to see what is there they are just non-existent. We are looking for a viable tissue culture lab and not just political economists to get money and then abandon the farm.”

However, he acknowledged that there are pockets of labs across the country but they don’t have functional activities. So, the impact of these commercial laboratories are products which are in high demand in Nigeria.

While soliciting for partnership between the company and the society, he expressed optimism that the collaboration will result in a win-win drive of guaranteeing Nigeria’s food security now and in the immediate future.

On the future of biotechnology, he said: “Oil is gradually diminishing, we must respond to how to embark on bio-resources to scale up our economy.

“The society is very proud of your very contribution and hopes that this recognition through the award will also encourage the founder to do more in all this aspect and we hope that you will continue to use this to serve humanity.

“We are very happy to be associated with your contributions and we want to see how we can deepen this collaboration with your company.”