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FG assures Nigerians on safety as first transgenic crop goes commercial

The federal government has assured Nigerians of their safety as it approves the registration and release of a new Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) cowpea variety for commercialization.

Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr Rufus Ebegba, said the permit granted to the Institute of Agricultural Research on cowpea has also been approved by the National Varietal Release Committee which approves all new crop varieties.

He said the agency was not resting on its oars in ensuring that only approved genetically modified seeds and grains for food and feed processing are allowed into the Nigerian market hence the constant upgrading of its GM detection and analysis laboratory.

Dr Ebegba said there was no crop that is not altered, “the difference between the genetically modified ones and the other is that you pick a particular gene and characteristics of an organism and put into another organism that can never happened under a natural atmosphere.”

He said with the biotechnology the crop was good for consumption, adding that Nigerians should learn to trust government in protecting their interests.

The Cowpea Manager of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr Issoufou Kollo Abdourhamane, in a statement on the commercialisation of the cowpea said the new variety was developed by scientists at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in collaboration with various partners under the coordination of the AATF.

He said the newly approved variety had been bred for resistance to Maruca vitrata, a lepidopteron insect pest that causes up to 90 per cent yield loss in severe infestation cases.

The decision to release the variety means that farmers will have access to the seed that will help them significantly reduce the number of sprays they currently apply to their crop – from six to seven times – to only two per cropping season and as a result realise better yield in quantity and quality.

Also, Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, the Principal Investigator for the project and Executive Director, Institute for Agricultural Research, Zaria said both the on-station and on-farm trials demonstrated the superiority of the variety.

“The protein and nutrients content of variety ‘SAMPEA 20-T is the same as that of other conventional varieties, meaning that the Bt gene that was introduced into the variety has no negative influence on the nutritional composition of both grain and folder,” said Prof. Ishiyaku, adding that the newly released variety does not differ in any way from already existing cowpeas (beans) other than the improvements made.

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