By Abdallah el-Kurebe and Gabriel Ewepu
KANO-AS more African countries join the Agric Biotech community and Nigeria prepares to commercialise the Bacillus Thuringiensis, BT, Cowpea, the National Agricultural Research System, NARS, has certified the crop as safe for human consumption.
Addressing a media conference on the Cowpea trial field in Kano Thursday, the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, ARCN, which is the coordinating agency for agricultural research in the country said that after eight years of research, the council was proud to present the “first home-grown genetically modified crop to Nigerians,” a product that had “passed all necessary scientific tests and found to pose no danger to human or the environment.”
Represented by the Director of Partnerships and Linkages, Dr. Yarama Ndirpaya, the Executive Secretary of ARCN, Prof. Ambrose Voh stated that in the last ten years, the council had developed acceptable technologies that had reinforced the nation’s quest for self sufficiency in food production.
“As the coordinating agency for the 15 agricultural research institutes in Nigeria, we have identified modern biotechnology as one scientific tool, which potentials can help improve crop and animal production and we have done this with all sense of responsibilities bearing in mind both national and international protocols that guide the deployment of genetic modification, “ he stated.
He added that in spite of the research advancements in crop and animal improvement carried out by various research institutes, the council’s attention was drawn to a publication, which alleged that the Cowpea research at the Institute of Agricultural Research, IAR, of Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, was aiming to harm Nigerians.
“This is untrue and unfounded. Those behind this publication are bent on destroying the agricultural gains of the current government and on ruining the economy of the country for selfish gains. No product of our research under the supervision of the Council and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture will constitute harm to the people of Nigeria”, he vowed.
The Principal investigator of the BT Cowpea project at the IAR, who is also a plant breeder, Prof. Muhammad Ishiyaku said that the research community in Nigeria has produced a catalogue of improved crop varieties to enhance their nutritional value and better the lives of farmers, over the years.
He explained that the decision to go into genetic modification in cowpea breeding was as a result of pest infestation that had made cowpea farming unattractive because farmers get less for their efforts as well as expose their lives to danger due to chemical spray to keep the pest at bay.
“In the course of spreading farmers, a lot of lives have been lost as a result of improper and poor handling of chemical by farmers. But the BT cowpea does not require that volume of spray”, he explained.
Ishiyaku further said that the BT cowpea was subjected to series of tests to prove their efficacy and that result of over six years of experiments had shown that the crop was not harmful and does not cause any disease.
He called on the media to read in between the lines when dealing with those who were bent on destroying the efforts of researchers to solve challenges associated with farming.
On the economic value, Ishiyaku said the result from the cowpea research shows a four-times yield advantage compared to their conventional counterparts and as well as has the potentials of saving the country over N16 billion annually from purchase of chemicals and N48 billion on increase yield.