Nigeria approves first GM crop for open cultivation

NIGERIA– The Nigerian government has approved its first genetically modified (GM) crop, the pod borer resistant cowpea for cultivation by farmers, reports Premium Times.

The cowpea cultivar isgenetically modified to resist the pest – Maruca Vitrata- was developed by Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) said it issued the approval, contained in a ‘decision document’, implying that the crop is safe and poses no harm to humans and the environment.

“IAR in partnership with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) commenced the research to address the deadly Maruca Vitrata attacks on beans in 2009 after series of efforts to use conventional breeding methods failed to produce results.

After 10 years of extensive research, government has deemed it fit to introduce the crop variety into the nation’s agricultural seed system having met all regulatory stipulations and scientific procedure,” said a statement issued by NBMA.

The biosafety agency said that the introduction of the new GM cowpea cultivar will address the national cowpea demand deficit of about 500,000 tonnes and also improve the national productivity average of 350kg/hectare.”

Following the approval, the crop will be submitted to the National Variety Release Committee for consideration and registration as a commercial crop in Nigeria.

Executive Director, IAR, I. U Abubakar, explained that the development and decision to venture into genetic modification in cowpea breeding was as a result of pest infestation that has over the years made cowpea farming difficult.

“Cowpea is the most important food grain legume in Nigeria. The low yield of the crop in Nigeria is due to many constraints particularly pod boring insects which cause up to 90% loss in severe infestation cases,” he said.

NBMA said the issuance of the permit was made after taking into consideration the advice of National Biosafety Committee, National Biosafety Technical sub-committee and the risk assessment and risk management report provided by IAR.

“After a thorough analysis of the application dossier, Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan prepared in connection with assessment of the application, it is unlikely that the proposed release will have adverse impact on the environment and human health,” read the statement issued by NBMA.

Results from the research, have shown that the GM cowpea will reduce the use of pesticides from eight to about two sprays per season and increase yield by 20%.

This means that Nigeria will record a revenue increase of more than N48 billion ($132 million) annually from cowpea.

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