….seed companies sensitized for commercialisation
By Gabriel Ewepu , Chiamaka Ajeamo & Prince Okafor
ABUJA- THE Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology, OFAB, on Thursday disclosed that farmers will have access to Biotechnology Cowpea, and Biotechnology Cotton, BT Cotton, in 2018.
The disclosure was made by the National Coordinator, OFAB Nigeria, Dr Rose Gidado, while answering questions from newsmen during a ‘Sensitization Workshop for Nigerian Seed Industry on GM Seeds’ organised by the National Agriculture Seed Council, NASC, African Agricultural Technology Foundation, AATF, Africa Harvest, Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology, OFAB, and Seed Enterprises Entrepreneur Association of Nigeria, SEEDAN, which was held at the conference room of NASC in Abuja.
Crop scientists in Nigeria have embarked on research to biologically enhance cowpea using the Biotechnology (BT) method, which manipulates living organisms for purposes of developing another product in a bid to improve its quality and eradicate pests and diseases that have been destroying the traditional crop popularly called beans in Nigeria, which cowpea pod borer called Maruca testulalis has been a key problem affecting the crop globally.
While BT cotton is an insect-resistant transgenic crop designed to combat the insect called bollworm, which has been destructive to it over the years.
According to Gidado the essence of the sensitization targets the seed companies in Nigeria to build and strengthen their capacity, which gears toward actualization of genetically modified crops in Nigeria by her own scientists.
She said farmers are also aware of the technology as some of them are and are ready to embrace it when it will be commercialized, which farmers’ management trial are going on right now in the country, while the cotton has been on in about 10 states, and for the cowpea three states are involved, including Zamfara, Kano and Kaduna. Adding that harvest will be in two weeks time and farmers are doing well and they are happy.
She said: “Very soon next year BT Cowpea and BT Cotton should be ready for commercialization. And so we want the seed companies in Nigeria to be involved and to be in charge of this because the technology there is justice in it so that our won farmers would have access to these seeds and so that there would not be monopoly of the seeds by any international company as it is always like preempted by the opposition group, people who are opposed to the technology and there is equity, justice in it.
“Some farmers are already aware. Presently, the two crops I mentioned the biotechnology cowpea and cotton are being managed by farmers. We have farmers’ management trial going on right now in the country. For the cotton I think it is going on in about 10 states in Nigeria that farms are managed.”
Delivering his keynote lecture, Prof Muhammad Ishiyaku, Leader of Biotechnology Research Programme of the Institute of Agricultural Research,IAR, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, encouraged farmers to embrace the technology following change in addressing challenges faced in food production, and for them to know the demand of the market and have reasonable level of stewardship, and added that GM seeds once deregulated would not be different from the conventional seeds.
Speaking also was the Director General, National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA, Dr Rufus Ebegba, assured farmers and Nigerians that the agency will ensure that that the products of genetically modified products are safe to Nigerians and the environment.
According to Ebegba, Nigerians were being misinformed with distorted messages passed across to them through various channels, including some self acclaimed scientists, therefore have made some government officials to be confused.