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Tribune Online
As Nigeria leads Africa in GMO commercialisation


NIGERIA has currently made a landmark achievement in commercializing two Genetically Modified crops both for industrial use and domestic use.

The GM crops which include the Bt cotton and the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) cowpea were both certified environmentally friendly by the the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) and finally released for commercialization by the National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Varieties.

The two BT cotton species approved for release by the National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Material are: MRC7377BG11 and MRC7361BG11.

While the PBR cowpea variety approved for commercial release is the SAMPEA 20-T, which was developed by scientists at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in collaboration with various partners under coordination of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).

The Nigerian textile industry was given hope of  revival following the release of the two high yielding BT cotton which has been proven to be resistant to pests and insects on the farm.

The Acting Director General of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Professor Alex Akpa, said the release of the cotton species will help revive the Nigerian textile industry which has been in comatose due to non-availability of raw materials.

“As was mentioned by the Chairman of National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release during the release, the registration of GM cotton is revolutionary to agricultural and textile development of Nigeria and can lead to future adoption of GM technology in the country.

“I regard this development as a milestone considering the state of our textile industry which hitherto used to be the second largest employer of labour in the country in the 60’s and the 70’s.

The textile industry has been in a state of comatose due to the absence of viable raw materials hence Nigeria became dependent on other countries for textiles leaving over 250 industries lock and key.

But succour has come the way of our farmers and the textile industries following the development of a genetically modified variety of cotton by Mahyco Nigeria Pvt Limited in collaboration with the Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria”, Professor Akpa said.

Explaining further, the NABDA Acting DG said “this new variety has just been officially registered as the potential of being adopted in all the cotton growing zones of Nigeria with maturity of 150-160 days, it is resistant to Bollworm complex, high seed cotton yield, early maturity tolerant to suckling insect pest with fiber length of 30.0 to 30.5mm.

“The new variety also has a fiber strength of 26.5 to 27.0g/tex (tenacity) and micronaire (strength) 3.9 to 4.1; it is highly viable when compared to the local alternative, the yields is higher as it gives 4.1 to 4.4 tones per hectare while the local variety is 600 to 900kg/hectare.

“The BG11 has the potential of producing 50 to 100 balls as compared to the 20 produced by the local variety and it also has the potential to withstand drought”.

He said the commercialisation of the Bt cotton will also meet the challenges of our time such as the effects of insect and pest infestation, high temperature, low rainfall in some areas, perennial flooding in others and so on.

Dr Rose Gidado, the Country Coordinator, Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology (OFAB), said “we have strategically chosen cotton as our crop of pride because it reflects our national needs and efforts towards transforming our industry.

“Our confidence is that the private sector, including seed companies, textile industries and ginneries will complement our commitments by taking up the challenges of full-scale commercial deployment”.

Similarly, Dr Ebegba, he assured Nigerians of the safety of the two cotton varieties to the environment, adding that the risk assessment has been carried out by the agency since 2016 before certifying the crops for trials in various locations.

“The issue of the BT cotton, we have actually approved it under the Biosafety system since 2016, it was based on our permission that they went ahead to do on-station trial and on-farm demonstration for farmers to see if it is the variety they wanted.

“The Varietal Release Committee basically is to ensure that agronomic practices, and the productivity the farmers expect is what it is presenting.

“But the Biosafety and risk analysis aspect of it has been carried out by the National Biosafety Management Agency, we have actually done our duty since 2016.

“We are still going to be monitoring from time to time, talking to the farmers, so it is a continuous monitoring and inspection that we will carry out to ensure that these products are not harmful, we are going to be analyzing the, taking to the laboratory to check from time to time if the gene composition of the products have changed or it is manifesting any toxin.

“The genes as of now have been observed be stable, so multiplication is just to increase the number of seeds so that farmers will have enough, so when that is done, farmers can start planting at that level we will continue to monitor.

“Nigerians should not be afraid we are here to ensure that whatever needs to be done is done, we will continue to monitor”, Dr Ebegba said.


Cowpea (Beans)

National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Material on 12th December 2019, approved the commercial release of Genetically Modified (GM) cowpea (beans), which is also called the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea (PBR Cowpea).

It was gathered that the PBR cowpea would increase yield per hectare, reduce cost purchasing chemical to control pest, and safeguard the environment from the harm of excessive use of chemicals.

Meanwhile, Nigerian beans farmers commended the PBR cowpea over its outstanding performance on the field over the old varieties the planted in the past.

“I have been planting beans for the past 16 years but have never seen any variety like the PBR Cowpea, it is early maturing, produces more pods, needs only two rounds of insecticide sprays and is very easy to manage,” says Suleiman Aliyu, a farmer based in Minjibir Local Government in Kano State.

Beans which is a major source of protein is a vital legume in Africa, it is a crop that forms the bulk of food eaten in each household on a daily basis.

Cowpea farmers in Nigeria suffered the devastating effects of the pest, Pod Borer (Maruca Vitrata), which damages over 70 per cent of beans pod in the field.

This consequently hiked the cost of cultivating beans in Nigeria due to increased use of chemicals on the farm to control the pest which is sprayed up to 8 times.

The PBR Cowpea has the potential to resist this Maruca from destroying the plants while on the field.

It allows farmers to plant and harvest quality yield twice in a year with reduced chemical spraying in the farm which makes it less expensive to plant than the conventional cowpea variety.

According to Professor Mohammed Ishiyaku, who is the Principal Investigator of the PBR Cowpea, the new Cowpea requires just about 2 to 3 spray of chemicals for a planting season to control the pest.

“Instead of spraying the cowpea up to 8 times, this new material has the potential to do a maximum of 3 sprays, it can do very well compared to the one that can do with 8 sprays of insecticide.

“We are targeting towards reducing insecticide spraying in this new variety when it is released from around 8 to a maximum of 3 sprays, that’s going to be a tremendous reduction in the application of insecticide in the growth of cowpea.

“Cowpea that are not improved requires about 8 sprays of insecticide, hopefully we plan to reduce the amount of insecticide so that farmers can save money from that, not only that, this new variety of cowpea has the potential to produce between 100 to 150 per cent more yield increase at the end if the day.

“For every one hectare a farmer sprays, he needs to spend at least N5400 for buying insecticide, not to talk of paying those who will spray the farm, water and others, but with this new variety, the farmer can spend about N1000 or N2000 per hectare, the reduction of about N3400 will make huge difference for the production”, Professor Ishiyaku noted.

Also, the Bt Cowpea was also developed to increase yield per hectare so that the over 500,000 tons of cowpea imported to satisfy local demand is is closed up.

Professor Ishiyaku said minimum of N16 billion is expected to be saved from adopting this new technology, and Nigeria is expected to get as much as N48 billion if this technology is adopted.

“For this variety, the quick arithmetic we made is we are going to save annually a minimum of N16.2 billion from the adoption of this new variety if it is released, and in terms of yield increase, Nigeria can get as much as N48 billion as a result of planting this new variety.

“The figures came from 20 per cent yield increase over the normal cowpea, and by growing 1 million hectare, and a hectare will yield N120,000 per ton, and if calculated, it will get to N48 billion”, he explained.

However, Dr Rufus Ebegba said despite granting the environmental release of the Bt cowpea, the NBMA would also continue to conduct assessment of the application of this technology to ensure that the proper things were done.

“Our business is to ensure safety, and we are prepared, we have started the process, let the members of the public know what is coming, what are the measures that are being put in place, the science of the developing it is already being analyzed by the scientist himself, so let those who have the knowledge also get themselves involved.

“As for the Agency, we are well prepared to analyze the product to ensure that it is safe, if it is not safe, we will not approve it, if it is safe, we have no reason not to approve it”, Dr Ebegba said.

As Nigeria leads Africa in GMO commercialisation
Tribune Online

source https://tribuneonlineng.com/as-nigeria-leads-africa-in-gmo-commercialisation/

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